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l:^ ^^ 




February 1892 



Compiled from the Ancient Authobities 


Scot, but by profession a Theologian 


TratisUted from tbe original Latin and Edited 

with Notes by 


to which is prefixed a Life of the Author hy 



Printed at the University Press by T, and A. C< 
for the Scottish History Society 



• • 

• • • 





LIFE OF THE AUTHOR, by ^Eneas J. G. Mackay, , xxix 

Appendix to the Life. 

I. Notice of Major in French and Scottish Records, . cxvi 

II. Note on the School of the Terminists, . cxxii 


Author's Preface to Kinir James v.. ... . cxxx 


Chap. I. — A short Preface by John Major, theologian of Paris, 
and Scotsman by birth, to his work concerning the rise and 
gests of the Britons. Likewise concerning the name and the 
first inhabitants of Greater Britain, .... 1 

Chap. II. — Of the description of Britain and its extent : that is, 
its breadth, length, and circumference ; also of its fruitfulness, 
alike in things material and in famous men, ... .5 

Chap. III. — (Concerning things that are lacking in Britain, and 
what the country possesses in their stead ; and concerning 
the length of the day in that land, . .12 

Chap. IV. — Of those who have possessed Britain, how the peoples 
of Wales are Aremoric Britons, and the Scots are Irish Britons, 
and of the threefold language of the Britons, . .17 

Chap. V. — Of the situation of Britain, that is, of England and 
Scotland, and of their rivers, and, in special, of the wealth of 
London, ........ 19 

Chap. VI. — Of the boundaries of Scotland, its cities, towns and 
villages ; of its customs in war, and in the church ; of its 
abundance of fish, its harbours, woods, islands, etc. , . .27 

Chap. VII. — Concerning the Manners and Customs of the Scots, 40 


Book 1 — {coutinued,) 


Chap. VIII. — Something further concerning the manners and 
customs of the Scots, that is^ of the peasantry^ as well as of the 
nobles, and of the Wild Scots, as well as the civilised part, . 47 

Chap. IX. — Concerning the various origin of the Scots, and the 
reason of the name. For the Scots are sprung from the Irish, 
and the Irish in turn from the Spaniards, and the Scots are so 
named after the woman Scota, . . .50 

Chap. X. — Of the Origin of the Picts, their Name and Customs, . 54 

Chap. XI.— In what manner the Scots first gained a settlement in 

Britain, ........ 56 

Chap. XII. — Concerning the arrival of the Romans in Britain, 

and their achievements in that island, . . .57 

Chap. XIII. — How the Emperor Claudius came to Britain, 58 

Chap. XIV. — Concerning the events which thereafter happened in 
Britain, the building of the wall, the passion of Ursula with 
her companions at Cologne, the reception of the Catholic 
Faith, and the rest^ ...... 59 

Chap. XV. — Concerning the Strife between the Picts and Scots, . 61 


Chap. I. — Follows here the second book of British history. Of 
the return of the Scots into Britain, and their league with the 
Picts, and the wars that were soon thereafter carried on by 
them, and the building of a wall, .... 64 

Chap. II. — Of the sending of Bishops to Scotland, and the conse- 
cration of several of them in that country, likewise of their 
holy lives^ and the marvels that they wrought, 65 

Chap. III. — Concerning the affairs of the Britons, 67 

Chap. IV.— Of Merlin the Prophet, . .72 

Chap. V. — Of Aurelius Ambrosius and his reign, . . .78 

Chap. VI.— Of King Arthur, ..... 81 

Chap. VII. — Concerning Eochodius, Aidan, and Eugenius, kings 
of Scotland, and men of noted sanctity that were born in their 
reigns, ........ 85 

Chap. VIII. — Concerning the arrival of Gormund, first in Ireland, 
then in Britain, and his cruel dealings with both lands ; also 
of the rule of the Saxons in Britain under Gormund, . . 89 

Chap. IX — Of the outward form and appearance of the English, 
and how they differ in appearance and stature from the rest of 



Book II — (continued.) 

nations ; likewise of the mission of Augustine for their conver- 
sion^ and of his preaching, . .... 89 

Chap. X. — Of the conversion of Oswald, likewise of the too great 
austerity of the bishop who was sent to him, of the wisdom of 
bishop Aidan, and of the conversion of the Britons to the faith, 91 

Chap. XI.— Of the Life of Oswald and Aidan, . . 94 

Chap. XII. — Concerning the death of Malduin, the reigns of £u- 
genius the Fourth and Eugenius the Fifth, Saint Cuthbert, the 
Venerable Bede, and the Monastery of Melrose, 98 

Chap. XIII. — Concerning the reign of Achaius, and the eminent 
valour and piety of his brother William ; likewise of the per- 
petual peace between the French and the Scots, and of the 
founders of the University of Paris, 100 

Chap. XIV. — Of the death of Congall, the reign of Dungal, 
the contention between the Picts and Scots ; likewise of the 
war against Alphin, whom in the end they slew, and of the 
deeds of others, ...... 102 


Chap. I. — Of the incontinence of Osbert, king of Northum- 
berland, and his death ; of the slaying of Ella and the other 
cruelties practised by the Danes ; likewise of many kings of 
England, ....... 109 

Chap. II. — Of the reign of Donald the Scot, and the expulsion of 
the remnant of the Picts ; of the deeds of Constantine Eth, or 
Aetius, of Gregory, Donald, Constantine, and Eugenius, kings 
of Scotland, . . . . . .112 

Chap. III.— Of the children of Knoth, king of England. Of the 
character of Edward, the miracles that he did, and his chastity ; 
likewise of the overthrow of Harold, king of England, by the 
Norman, ....... 115 

Chap. IV. —Of the Kings of Scotland and their deeds, . 117 

Chap. V. — Concerning Malcolm Canmore and Machabeda, kings 
of Scotland ; likewise of the death of Saint Edward, king of 
England, the flight of Edgar with all his children and house- 
hold into Scotland, and of the marriage of Saint Margaret, his 
daughter, and the children that she bore, . 121 

Chap. VI. — Of the deeds of the English ; first of the invasion 
of England by William of Normandy the Bastard, and his 
slaying of king Harold. Of the independence of the Scots ; of 
William's issue and his death, . . .127 


Book III — (continued.) 


Chap. VII. — Of the reign in England of William Rufus, how he was 

an overbearing and irreligious man^ and met with a condign end, 1 29 

Chap. VIII. — Of the rest of the acts of Malcolm, king of the Scots^ 
and how the holy life of his wife brought him too to the prac- 
tice of piety, ....... 130 

Chap. IX. — Concerning Donald^ Duncan, and £dgar, kings of the 

Scots, their children, and their deeds^ . 131 

Chap. X. — Of Alexander the Fierce^ king of the Scots, 132 

Chap. XI. — Of David, that most excellent king of the Scots, in 
whom are found wonderful examples of all the virtues ; like- 
wise of Henry, his son, and of his grandchildren, the issue of 
this Henry ; and of Richard of Saint Victor, . .133 

Chap. XII. — Of Henry Beauclerk, king of the English, and of the 

affairs of Normandy in his time, 143 

Chap. XIII. — Of Stephen, king of the English, his reign and death, 144 
Chap. XIV. — Of Henry earl of Anjou and king of England, 146 

Chap. XV. — Of the martyrdom of the Blessed Thomas, and the sin 

of the king, . . . . . 150 


Chap. I. — Of the war between the foresaid Henry, king of the 
English, and his son, and the peace that was made between 
them ; of the defection of the Irish to the English ; and of the 
penitence of Henry, and the extent of his dominions at the time 
of his death, ....... 153 

Chap. II. — Of Richard, the emperor's son, king of the English^ 
who went as a warrior to the Holy Land, but on his return 
was^ by the duke of Austria, wickedly taken prisoner^ and by 
his own people nobly ransomed ; here too is treated of the 
reason of an abundance and of a scarcity of children ; some- 
thing likewise about robbers^ . .154 

Chap. III. — Of John^ that far from worthy king of the English ; 
of the interdict which was laid upon England^ and of the assign- 
ment of the tribute to the Roman pontiff ; the poisoning of the 
king, and its censure, . . . . 1 57 

Chap. IV. — Of Malcolm^ grandson of David^ king of the Scots, 

and all that he did^ and how he never entered the married state, 162 

Chap. V. — Of William, king of the Scots, his captivity and his 
ransom ; of the lavish building of monasteries, and other 
matters that came to pass in his time, . . .163 



Book IV. — (continued). 

Chap. VI. — Of William the Scot and Alexander^ William's sou, 
and of a miracle done by William ; of the war with John of 
England^ and the peace that was made with the same^ and the 
treaty by the swearing of the oath of fealty, .167 

Chap. VII. — Of Alexander, son of William, and his wars with 
John of England. Of the interdict on Scotland, and when 
such a thing is to be feared, ..... 170 

Chap. VIII. — Of Henry, king of the English, and his son, and of 

the prophecy of Merlin about them, .173 

Chap. IX. — Of Edward, son of Henry the Englishman, his war 
with the Welsh and his victory over them ; likewise of the 
expulsion of the Jews, .175 

Chap. X. — Of the monasteries that were founded by the Earl of 
Fife, and something by the way about the seclusion of nuns 
and their rule of life ; of the mar^age of King Alexander the 
Second, his life and praiseworthy death, and of the destruction 
by fire of men and towns in Scotland, . .177 

Chap. XI. — Of Alexander the Third, king of Scotland, and tlie 
dispute that took place in the matter of his coronation ; of 
Egyptian days ; of free will ; and of the genealogy of the 
Scottish kings, ...... 182 

Chap. XII. — Of the translation of the remains of Saint Margaret 
of England and Malcolm, king of the Scots ; of the marriage of 
Alexander and the dispensation that was granted him there- 
anent. Of the punishment inflicted upon vagabonds and Jews, 
and other events of his reign, ..... 185 

(/HAP. XIII. — Of what took place in Britain at this time, according 
to the narrative of Caxton the English chronicler in the first 
place — with the refutation of the statements made by him ; 
follows, in the second place, another narrative, as we find it in 
the Scots chroniclers, . .191 

(/HAP. XIV. — A truer version of the deeds of William Wallace or 

Wallax, ........ 195 

Chap. XV. — Of John Cumming, regent of Scotland ; of the rest 
of the feats of Wallace, and of his miserable ending, but his 
happy change from this life, ..... 202 

Chap. XVI. — Of those famous theologians Richard Middleton and 
John Duns : likewise of the contest for the Scottish throne, 
and of the feats of the new kings of that country, 206 

Chap. XVII. — Containing many reasons in support of the claim of 
Robert Bruce ; and, in preface to these, the whole issue of 
Malcolm down to the present king is given in full, 209 


BOOK IV— (continued.) 


Chap. XVIII. — Of the objections that may be urged against this 

conclusion, and their solution, . . . ' . .216 

Chap. XIX — Of the acts of Robert Bruce, king of Scotland, and 

the calamities which befell him, .... 220 

Chap. XX. — Of Edward the Second, king of the English ; and of 

the manner of waging war among the Britons, . 225 

Chap. XXI. — Of the war which the Scots waged against Edward 
the Second and its happy result ; likewise of the learned men 
who at that time flourished in Britain, .... 227 


C*HAP. I. — Of the rest of the warlike deeds of Robert Bruce and 
his brother done against the English ; and of the unwise treaty 
that was m^de at Stirling, ..... 231 


Chap. II. — Of the immense army that the English king brought 
against the Scot; of the prelude to the battle, and the 
valour that was shown therein by Randolph and a few among 
the Scots ; of Douglas's loyalty and kindness towards Randolph, 
and the speech that was made by both kings to their soldiers, . 283 

Chap. III. — Of the drawing up of the two armies in order of 

battle, ........ 238 

Chap. IV. — Of the establishment of Robert Bruce in the kingdom ; 
of the skirmishing raids made by the English ; and of the death 
in Ireland of Edward Bruce, ..... 242 

Chap. V.— How the kings ravaged each the other's country. Of 
the policy of delay adopted by Robert, and how he then carried 
the attack into England ; his address to his soldiers ; Edward's 
exhortation to the English. Of the battle and the victory won 
by the Scots, 246 

(*HAP. VI.— Of what took place in England in the time of Robert 
Bruce ; chiefly of the factions and quarrels of the nobles of the 
kingdom which arose through the arrogance of Hugh Spenser, 260 

Chap. VII. — Concerning Isabella, sister of the king of the French, 
how she was sent to France by her husband, the English king, 
and of her banishment there along with her son. Of the 
captivity of Edward, and the prophecies of Merlin ; further, of 
the passage of the Scots into England, and of their return from 
England, ....... 263 

Chap. VIII.— Of the complaint made by Edward the father, and 
how he was carried to another prison, where he was put to 
death with terrible tortures, ..... 262 



BOOK V— (continued.) 

C'HAP. IX. — Of the deeds of Robert Bruce, king of the Scots, and 
Edward the Thirds king of the English ; likewise of the peace 
that was brought about through the marriage of their children ; 
and of the death of Robert^ ..... 203 

Chap. X — Of the wise regency of Scotland at the hands of 

Thomas Randolph^ and his end through the treachery of a monk, 266 

Chap. XI. — Of the brave deeds of James Douglas and his death ; 
and of the succession of Edward Baliol in Scotland, his victory, 
his coronation, and, finally, his flight, .... 269 

Chap. XIL — Of the attack made upon the Scots by Edward of 
England and Edward Baliol ; of tiie siege of Berwick, and how 
it was in the end taken by storm after a battle in which very 
many of the Scots lost their lives, .... 271 

Chap. XIII. — Of the tyranny of Baliol in Scotland ; of his oppres- 
sion of David, and the accession of Robert Stuart to the side of 
David, ........ 274 

Chap. XIV. — Of the return of earl Randolph to Scotland ; of the 
choice of guardians, the captivity of one, and the brave deeds of 
the other ; of cities that were set on fire and their restoration, 
and various events of war, ..... 276 

Chap. XV. — ^The siege of the castle of Dunbar, and its courageous 
defence by a woman ; how the siege was raised by reason of the 
invasion of England by the French ; of divers losses upon both 
sides ; and of tournaments, and how far they are lawful, . 279 

C-HAP. XVI. — Of the siege of Perth and Stirling; of the recovery 
of Edinburgh ; the renown in war of Alexander Ramsay ; of 
the welcome given to king David, and the fealty sworn to him 
by the Scots, ....... 282 

Chap. XVII. — Of the tutors who were placed over Edward the 
Third, king of the English, in the time of his youth. Of the 
treaty that was made between the Scots and the English. Of 
the pre-eminent virtue of Robert Bruce, and the independence 
of Scotland, as against Caxton. Of the strife that ensued con- 
cerning the right of that prince to bear rule, with a repetition 
of some things relating to the death of his father, . 286 

Chap. XVIII. — Of the dangers that beset the favourites of kings, 

and of the factions that arose in Scotland under David Bruce, . 290 

Chap. XIX— Of the siege of Calais, and the unfortunate expedi- 
tion of David Bruce in England, and his captivity there. Of 
Edward's deeds of violence in Scotland, and the election of a 
governor of Scotland ; and how some famous men came by their 
death, ........ 292 

xii CONTENl^ 

Book V. — (contintied,) 


Chap. XX. — How Eugene^ the Frenchman^ was sent into Scotland^ 
and of all that was wrought by the Scots along with him against 
the English. Of the honourable return of the Frenchman. 
Of the violent attack made by the English upon Scotland, and 
their rueful return to England^ and of what the Scots did there- 
arcer^ ..•.«••. ^v^ 

Chap. XXI. — Of the return to England from Scotland of king 
David without compassing his end. Of the captivity of John^ 
king of the French^ and the adroit escape of Archibald Douglas. 
Of the ransom at last of David, and the death of the queen, 
with her eulogy^ ...... 298 

Chap. XXII. — Of the death of Edward the Third and his son. Of 
the reign of Richard the Second, and of those whom he ennobled, 
and of his wives^ ...... *)01 

Chap. XXIII. — Of the rest of the deeds of King David ; how he 
succeeded in getting the church tithes^ and gave his counsel as 
to the choice of an Englishman to be king of Scotland^ and^ 
when his counsel was despised^ took to wife a young girl ; how 
he sought a divorce from her when he found her barren ; his 
Qeatn, ........ o^M 

Chap. XXIV. — Concerning Richard of England^ how he took his 
uncle prisoner, and was himself made prisoner by his subjects 
and slain. Of the creation and banishment of dukes. Of Henry 
the Fourth and Henry the Fifth of England ; and of Robert 
Stewart^ the Scottish king, ..... «007 


Chap. I. — Of the killing of a servant of Dunbar and the truce which 
was thereby violated ; and of the cruel revenge that was taken 
and the stratagem which was conceived by certain lords ; also 
of divers revolts and their issues^ .... 310 

Chap. II. — Of the expeditions of John of Gaunt, Archibald 
Douglas, the English, the French, and Richard, king of Eng- 
land. Of the Scots invasion of England^ and of the charter 
that was founds . . . . . .312 

Chap. III. —Of the battle that was fought at Otterbum, and of 
other conflicts between the English and the Scots ; and chiefly 
between Henry Percy or Persy, and James Douglas, . .315 

Chap. IV. — Of the rest of this said battle, and its renewal by the 
bishop of Durham; and of the capture of Lindesay and his 
release^ ........ 324 

CONTENl'S xiii 


BOOK Vl-'icontinued.) 

Chap. V. — Of the choice of the younger Robert as Regent of Scot- 
land, which this writer can no way approve ; and of the expe- 
dition against England on the part of Robert, which had indeed 
a prosperous issue, but was none the less far from praiseworthy, 329 

Chap. VI. — Of the death of Robert the Scot, the second of the 
name, and of his issue. Of the coronation of Robert the Third, 
who was formerly called John, and of his character ; further, 
concerning the rising under Alexander Buchan, and the duel 
fought by thirty Wild Scots against other thirty, 331 

Chap. VII. — Of the creation of new dukes; and of the conspiracy 
and rebellion of the earl of March against the king and realm 
on account of the wrongful retention of his daughter's dower 
when she had been repudiated. Of the death and valour of 
Archibald the Terrible. Of the invasion of Scotland by Henry 
the Fourth of England, and the vengeance that the earl of 
March took upon the Scots, likewise of the destruction and 
captivity of the Scots, ...... 335 

Chap. VIII. — Of Henry the Fourth of England, who escaped plots 
that were laid for him, and tamed rebellious men ; and of the 
death of Robert the Third of Scotland in sorrow at the captivity 
of his son, ....... 340 

Chap. IX. —Of the achievements of Henry the Fifth, king of the 
English, and of James the First, king of the Scots ; and of the 
good faith kept by the Scots with the French ; of the various 
fortune in war of both, and of the death of Henry the Fifth and 
his eulogy, ....... 342 

Chap. X.— Of the restoration to his earldom of George earl of 
March ; of the destruction of the castle of Jedburgh ; and of 
the dispute that arose as to the legality of the imposition of new 
taxes. Of the battle at Harlaw, and the men who there lost 
their lives. Of the foundation of the University of Saint 
Andrew ; of the death of Robert duke of Albany, and an esti- 
mate of his achievements, ..... 346 

Chap. XI. — Of the return of James the First, the Scot, into his 
kingdom by way of the marriage that he contracted; the 
author's opinion concerning the ransoming of kings ; and of 
the sins of the kings against the state, .... 350 

Chap. XII. — Of the marriage of Lewis the Eleventh, king of the 
French, and Margaret of Scotland. Of the crime committed 
by James Stewart, and his banishment, and how he, with his 
fellow-conspirators, was punished. Of trial by jury or assise of 
the nobles of Scotland. Of the rebellion of Alexander of the 
Isles, and his petition for mercy, .... 353 


Book VI. — (continued), 


CuAP. XIII. — Of the twin sons that were bom to the king, and of 
the fresh institution in their case of the order of knights^ after 
the custom of Britain. Of the making of a cannon, and in 
defence of engines of war generally. Of the rising of the 
nobles. Of the conflict between the Wild Scots. Of the vain 
attempt that was made to seduce the Scots from the French 
alliance ; and of the disheriting of the duke of March ; of the 
death of Alexander Stewart, and of his heir, . 300 

Chap. XIV. — Of the murder of James the First, and the treason 
of the earl of Athole. Of the outward aspect and the moral 
characteristics of this same James the First ; the good iaith 
that he kept towards the French, and other his praises, 304 

Chap. XV. — Of the fearful but well-deserved punishment that was 
inflicted upon the parricides of James the First, and of the 
marriage of the queen his wife with a man of obscure condition, 
and the banishment of her new husband, 308 

Chap. XVI. — Of the deeds of Henry the Sixth of England, and the 
death at Orleans of Thomas Montacute. Of the French maid ; 
Philip of Burgundy; the ignoble marriage of the queen of 
England ; the unhappy marriage of Henry with the Lotharin- 
gian. Of various rebellious of the English nobles against the 
king, ........ 371 

Chap. XVII.-^f the birth of Edward of England and the rebellion 
of the duke of York. Of the various fortune of King Henry. 
Of York's ambition of the crown ; and of the various chances 
of the war, and attempts of the nobles, . 377 

Chap. XVIII. — Of the marriage of James the Scot, the Second, 
who was called Red Face ; of the struggle for power with the 
Douglases ; and, in connection therewith, of the danger to the 
state which comes from the exaltation of powerful lords. Of 
the reign of this same James the Second, his issue, his death, 
and his praise, ....... 381 

Chap. XIX.— Of the coronation of James the Third ; of Henry the 
Sixth and the things done by him in Scotland and England. 
Of the death of the queen of Scotland and her incontinence. 
Of the capture and the restoration of the duke of Albany. The 
death of bishop Kennedy and his encomium, . 387 

Chap. XX. — Of the character and the death of the duke of Clar- 
ence and the earl of Warwick. Of the deeds of Edward, 
Richard, and the Henrys, kings of England, and various occur- 
rences. Of the wickedness of Richard and his miserable death, 
and of the marriage of Henry the Eighth and of his sisters, . 389 




I. Population op Medibval Cities^ 
II. Passaoe on * Nobility^' 




Compiled by Thomas Gravsb Law. 

I. Bibliography of John Major and his Disciples — 

John Major — 

Logic and PfUhsophy, . . . . 


Scripture, . . . . . 


History, ...... 


Chronological Inde^, . . . . 


David Cranstoun^ . . . . . 


George Lokert^ . . . . . 


WnjjAif Manderston^ 


Robert Caubraith^ 


II. Prefaces to John Major's Works, . 





Reduced facsimile of the title-page of Major's Commentary on 

Matthew^ Edition 1518, . .at page 403 

Reduced facsimile of an old engraving of the ' Assembly of the 
Saints^' printed by Major in the Commentary on Matthew, 

at page 450 



To the Volume which is now placed in the hands of th& 
members of the Scottish History Society it falls to me to add a 
few words of preface at once as editor and translator. 

On the first suggestion of the book by the Council^ Mr. .£neas 
Mackay kindly offered to contribute towards it a Biography^ 
already written indeed for another purpose, but which as revised 
for this work has been so much enlarged as to become not only by 
far the most complete account of the Life of Major which we have^ 
but also an estimate of his place in philosophical and theological 
literature such as is nowhere else to be found. 

To Mr. Law we owe the Bibliographical Appendix^ which has 
grown from the meagre and often erroneous catalogue in Free- 
bairn's edition of the History into the ample though even now 
probably not exhaustive list to be found at the end of this volume. 
That Appendix has been supplemented by a Bibliography of 
Major's disciples, and to the same hand is due the collection^ in the 
second Appendix, of those Prefaces and Dedications to Major's 
works, which from their subject-matter, from copious personal 
references to himself, to the objects of his address, and to others 
of his friends and pupils, will be recognised by the student of 
scholastic philosophy as possessing a real historical value. These 
Appendices in fact go far to render the present volume not 
merely a contribution to Scottish History, but an illustration of 
Scholastic method and teaching as these were exhibited in a great 
Scottish schoolman, now almost forgotten, but in his own day a 
man of outstanding influence. This collection of Prefaces may also 
serve to show the rich harvest which awaits the explorer of that 
field in literature; for the publication of the Prefaces alone in 
the works of one who was the centre of a movement, and in the 
works of his pupils, can hardly fail to throw light upon many 
other parts of history. 

So much I have thought it right to say in regard to the structure 


and framework of this volume ; but before I venture to say some- 
thing from the translator's point of view, I should like to put on 
record, even though I may be unable to repay, my debt to one 
whose help and service have been unfailingly placed at my 
disposal in the progress of my work. It was Mr. Law who first 
suggested to me that I should undertake this translation, and to 
my eyes the traces of his judgment and suggestion are so plainly 
visible on every page that I seem to usurp a place to which I have 
no claim when I write as if I were the editor of the work. 

To the external history of Major's life — as that has now been 
written by Mr. Mackay, with as much completeness as we may ever 
expect to have it presented to us — I have nothing to add. Nor 
have I any contribution to make, unless indirectly and by the way, 
to an estimate of his relation to the thought of his time. But 
just as in the intimate intercourse of daily life certain features in 
the character of a friend come to impress themselves insensibly 
upon one, so, in the peculiar relation which a translator of some 
years' standing comes to hold towards his original, do certain char- 
acters and even mannerisms gain an aspect and a prominence which 
no ordinary study can afford. I think that it will not be out of 
place if I should here try to indicate some of those features in this 
History which have impressed me in this fashion. 

It will be seen that in the first sentence of his History Major 
declares that he writes this work in the manner almost of the 
theologians (' theologico ferme stylo '), and in its dedication to king 
James the . Fifth, where he deals with the objection which might 
possibly be urged against him — a 'theologian' — that he writes a 
history, he says that he utterly dissents from the view of those who 
hold that it is not becoming to a theologian to write history. 
* For if, he says, 'it belongs to a theologian most of all to lay 
down definite statements in regard to matters of faith, and religion, 
and morals, I shall not consider that I transgress my province if I 
relate not events only, or how and by whose instigation such events 
came to pass, but also if I say definitely whether such and such things 
were rightly done or wrongly ; and throughout my work, yet most 
of all in matters that are ambiguous, I have made this, first of all, 
my aim, that you [i.e. the king] may learn from the reading of this 
present history, not only what has taken place, but also how that 
particular matter ought to have been dealt with, and that you may 
thus discern, at the expense of a little reading, what the experience 


of centuries^ if it were granted you to live so long, could hardly 
teach you.* This passage is a key to the manner of Major's history. 
He has not indeed^ in the modem sense, any notion of a philosophy 
of history ; but he separates himself once for all from the chronicler 
and the annalist. To him history is important from the practical 
value of the lessons that it contains ; one might almost say that the 
writing of his history possesses for the writer its chief interest in the 
opportunity that it affords for a full and free discussion ; and there 
cannot be a doubt that in Major's case that discussion is made vivid 
to us from the action of an eminently independent judgment 
Examples of this discussion are strewn too thickly in his pages to 
make it necessary to refer to them ; but I think that the reader 
will recognise that it is there that Major warms to his task, and not 
seldom, in the midst of practical lessons which to men of the present 
day may suffer sometimes from being obsolete and sometimes from 
being over-obvious, throws incidentally a side-light upon the thought 
of his own times that has a real historical importance. From his 
f In Quartum ' I will quote two passages which illustrate his con- 
ception of a theologian's duty. The first runs thus : ' Now the 
manner of the scholastics, and a laudable manner it is, is this : that 
every man shall say freely what he thinks — with all observance, as 
matter of course, of the forms of courtesy, whether with those that 
are older than himself, or with his contemporaries. Aught else is 
unbecoming to a theologian.'^ The second passage bears specially 
upon the value of discussion or debate. ' To forbid discussion is to 
entangle men in the error of Mahomet, who prohibited discussion 
in regard to his law, fearing that by discussion the falsehood of 
his erroneous and execrable sect might be discovered; for it is 
by comparison and discussion, and by no other way according to 
the light of nature, that an intricate matter can be cleared up.' ^ 

The theological or scholastic manner pervades the History ; and 
Major as a true scholastic gives evidence throughout of that intel- 
lectual subordination to Aristotle which for several centuries marked 
the course of European thought. Some acquaintance with his 

' Modus autem scholasticus est et laudabilis ut quilibet libere dicat quod sentit : 
honore tamen semper servato tarn apud maiores quam apud equates. Alioquin 
theologum dedecet. — In Quartum i Dist. xviii. Qu. 2. fol. cxxxviii. ed. 1521. 

3 Prohibere enim disputationes est homines in errorem Mahumeti involvere : 
qui de sua lege disputationemvetuit, nefalsitas suaeerroneae et execrandae sectae 
disputando deprehenderetur. Collatione namque et disputatione materia intri- 
cata, et non aliter, naturaliter invenitur. — Jb. Dist. xxiv. Qu. 13, fol. clxx. 


history — what indeed Major would himself have called 'tantilla 
lectio ' — will impress that fact upon the reader unforgetably. Facts 
or inferences drawn from the writings of Aristotle go further than 
anything else to solve the vexed question of the birth of Merlin, and 
to explain the failure on the part of the Scots to take the castle 
of Berwick in 1355 ; but it is naturally in the great questions of 
the government of states and of how a man shall lead a life conform 
to the dictates of reason that the commanding and universal pre- 
sence of ' the Philosopher ' is chiefly felt. There is a passage in 
the fifth chapter of the first book of the History in which Major 
enumerates the illustrious philosophers and theologians who have 
gone forth from the University of Oxford. When I showed that 
passage to a friend to whom I am under more obligations than to 
any other in the matter of this translation, and who supplied me 
with notes in elucidation of the life of those men, he added in 
regard to one of them, that ' of course he wrote upon the Sentences. 
Major does not seem to consider any one worthy of notice who did 
not \ It was an agreeable pleasantry ; it was also strictly true. 
But however strongly marked may be the traces of Aristotle in the 
History, it is again to his purely scholastic work, as that is seen in 
the ' In Quartum,' that we must go for the most striking illustra- 
tions of reverence, in this independent thinker, for the universal 
philosopher. In discussing questions connected with drinking — 
such as drinking for a wager (invitations ' ad potus equales ') — he 
says that in this matter as much importance should be attached to 
the opinion of Origen and Augustine as to that of Aristotle^. 
In another passage he describes the famine of the year in whicn he 
was writing, ' in ligua Hoccitana in urbe Lemouicensi '^, and pictures 
a certain Sortes (a favourite name in his arguments) on whose face 
the calamitous condition is plainly written. ' Yet I may believe ', 
Major goes on, ' that Sortes will probably survive until the new 
harvest is collected in his bam, though in great penury ; and even 
now he suffers hunger, and a morsel of garden stuff, or barley 
bread, or a few beans would be sweeter to him than a partridge to 
the mouth of an abbot. The question is this : Am I bound, under 
pain of otherwise committing a sin, to succour him ? It is answered 
affirmatively. This is proved by the words of Christ, in the tu'enty- 

^ Origeni presbyteroet Augustino in hac materia non est minor fides habenda 
qaam Aristoteli. — In Quartum^ Dist. xxvii. Qu. 8, fol. cxxxN-i. 
^ ue, Limoges. 


fifth chapter of Matthew : " I was hungry and ye gave me no meat, 
I was thirsty and ye gave me no drink, I was a stranger and ye 
received me not, naked and ye clothed me not, jn pain and in 
prison and ye visited me not." And afterward the conclusion 
follows : '* Go ye into eternal fire," Wherefore the rich glutton 
who refused the crumbs of his bread to Lazarus was buried in hell, 
Luke xvi. Come hither, as my third witness, thou blessed John 
Evangehst ; say too what thou dost think as to these two cases. 
The blessed John makes answer : '* Why question me ? Hast thou 
not read in the third chapter of the first Canonical Epistle : ' He 
that is rich in this world's goods and seeth his brother in need, and 
closeth his bowels against him, how doth the love of God abide in 
him ? ' " As much as to say : " To me it seems incredible that the 
love of God abideth in him." I do not believe that Aristotle 
would have spoken otherwise.' ^ In another place he marshals the 
arguments by which he would have endeavoured to lead Aristotle 
to embrace Christianity : * If Aristotle, or any other intelligent 
heathen, were half-doubtful which creed [Christianity or Mahomet- 
anism] he should embrace, knowing that he must give his assent 
to one, but ignorant to which it should be given, I would use, with 
Aristotle, this argument — ** That law censures all vices even more 
severely than you yourself in your Ethics censure them, and exalts 
all virtues to the stars^ ".'* I add one more example of the place 
occupied by Aristotle. To the justification and sanctions of mar- 
riage this is added : ' Besides, Aristotle, the patriarchs, and other 
men who have deserved heaven, entered the married state.' ^ 

I should like now to say something about the singular fairness, 
the anxious impartiaUty, of Major's judgment of the English 
nation, the cordiality of his appreciation of English customs. 
There may indeed be some injustice in characterising this mental 
attitude of his as ' anxious ', for it seems to belong to the very 
nature of the man and to have been no more than confirmed by 
his training and by his conception of the functions of the theo- 

' . . . Non credo Aristotelem aliter fuisse dicturum. — Id. Dist. xv. Qu. 7, 
fol. Ixx. 

' Si Aristoteles staret subdubius vel alius gentilis ingeniosus ad quern ritum se 
converteret, sciens quod uni teneretur assentire nesciens tamen cui . . . quae 
quidem lex vitia omnia rigidius quam tu ipse in Ethicis damnat, et virtutes ad 
astra effert. — Id, In Prologum^ Qu. 3, fol. v. 

' Praeterea Aristoteles, patriarchae, et viri celo digni matrimonium contraxe* 
runt. — /<^. Dist. xxvi. Qu. 3, fol. clxxxviii. 


logian. Attention has been directed by Mr. Mackay to his views 
of the advantage to both nations of a union of the crowns. In our 
own country, and at the time of his writing, there was probably no 
one who shared his views, and even fifty years later, we find in 
our great humanist, George Buchanan, whom the world has recog- 
nised as upon that side of life the true exponent of the modem 
spirit, a resolute opponent of union. Yet it is not only 
because in this matter John Major showed the insight of a philo- 
sophic statesman that his position is unique among Scottish 
writers. He lost indeed no one of those opportunities which the 
nature of his narrative so abundantly afforded to strike home the 
lesson that, with two neighbouring nations of such spirit as the 
Scots and English, there could be no chance of a permanent peace 
save in union of the crowns by way of intermarriage. *But he went 
much further. As if he were an apostle with a message to his 
race, his History bears the mark, in one aspect of it, of a homily in 
which his hearers are adjured to cast away all 'nasty expressions ' 
— that habit 'illote loqui ' — about the men of a neighbouring 
country. Mr. Mackay points out (p. xxxiii.) that though Major was 
a Cambridge man, he frankly acknowledged the superiority of 
Oxford in numbers and reputation. This simple recognition of the 
truth is characteristic of him. That he was to his heart's core a 
Scotsman is written in every chapter of his History ; yet he did 
not on that account refrain from pointing out that the ecclesias- 
tical polity of Scotland is not worthy of comparison with that of 
England (p. 30) ; that in the art of music the English take pre- 
cedence alike of Frenchmen and of Scots (p. 27) ; that the Scots are 
prone to call themselves of noble birth (p. 45) ; that many Britons 
(who in the case in point were Scots) were inclined to be ashamed 
of things nq way to be ashamed of (p. 7) ; that the Scottish gentry 
of his time educated their children neither in letters nor in morals 
(p. 48) ; that — hating Caxton as he did — still if that were true 
which Caxton affirms, that the Scots, in the ravaging of Northum- 
berland, slew young men, and women too, with every circumstance 
of cruelty, then in that case he must condemn them and abhor 
them for such wickedness (p. 226); that the English *in civil 
polity are at least not less wise than we — and to my thinking they 
are wiser' (p. 347); that the English showed their affection for 
their king (Richard Cceur de Lion), and acted rightly in selling 
for his ransom every second gold or silver vessel which was used in 
the service of God (p. 155) ; while in such a judgment as that which 


he passes on Edward the First (p. 223), expressed with all severity 
of censure in regard to his political action, yet admitting the pos- 
sibility that even here the plea might be urged that he had acted 
on an ' ignorance that was invincible ', we have a remarkable com- 
bination of national fairness and theological justice. It gives him 
pleasure too to call attention to that notable example of English 
courtesy which restored to the shrine of Saint Duthach at Tain the 
tutelary shirt which was found on the dead body of the earl of 
Ross after the battle of Halidon Hill (p. 273). 

I do not know whether before Major's day we had as a nation 
reached a more candid estimate of England than that which found 
this quaint expression in Wyntoun : — 

' Set we haifF nane afifectioune 
Off caus till Ynglis natioune, 
Yeit it ware baith syn and schame 
Mair than thai serve, thaim to defame. ' * 

It was something to have got so far. But I like to think that 
Major has proved his right to a place among notable Scotsmen 
as an example perhaps more eminent than any other of a man 
who has shown the possibility of combining the strongest attach- 
ment to his own country and the frankest appreciation of the 
virtues of another. 

To the fairness of his appreciation of Englishmen one exception 
has to be made. The name of Caxton is familiar to all Britons — 
both ' English Britons and Scottish Britons ', to speak with Major, — 
and we have, not without reason, accustomed ourselves to look 
upon the first English printer as a national benefactor. It seems 
strange, therefore, and almost incredible, to have him presented to 
us as a man who wrought nothing but evil. That Major says nothing 
of Caxton as a printer, and nothing of the invention of printing, is 
not so strange ; for recognition of the importance of the art is not 
frequent within the hundred years that followed its invention. 
There is a reason, however, for Major's abhorrence of Caxton ; for it 
seems plain from Major's calling him 'Anglus Chronographus ', 
' historicus Anglus ', and from the general character of his many 
quotations from the ^ Chronicle ', that Caxton was believed by him 
to be the original writer of that work, and not merely the printer, 
and perhaps the editor, of Trevisa's translation of the old Chronick 
of Brut. And not only was Caxton, on that showing, a foolishly 

^ Cron, Bk. ix. ch. 20, Laing's ed. vol. iii. p. 72. 


credulous person; he was the mouth-piece also of many of 
those sayings^ on the English side^ the use of which, upon 
one side as well as the other, Major so heartily abhorred. 
Nothing in Caxton made for national amity, and that was 
Major s ideal for both kingdoms. It must be admitted too that 
when Caxton said that 'the king of Scotland became his [king 
PMward's] man, and had all his lands of him ' ; that the Scots 
'chose unto their king William Wallace, a ribald and a harlot, 
comen up of nought * ; that Pope John the Twenty-second ' was 
wonders sorry that Christendom was so destroyed through the 
Scots ' ; that Edward Balliol lived at Dunpier (in France) on his 
own lands, 'as well he might, till that the Scots would amend 
them of theyr misdeeds ... so he forsook his realme of Scotland, 
and set thereof but little price ', his language was well fitted to 
exasperate a sensitive nation. Yet Major is ready to make 
'allowance in a measure — if not altogether — for an unlettered 
man : he followed simply the fashion of speech that was common 
amongst the English about their enemies the Scots ' (p. 287).^ 

In the last book of his History Major quotes the French historian 
Robert Gaguin several times, and with a minuteness which shows 
that Gaguin's Compendium super Francorum Gesiis was well known 
to him. Gaguin was bom about 1425, and died in 1502. His 
Compendium was first published in 1497^ and received the high 
commendation of Erasmus and Cornelius Girard, ' Hieronymianae 
vallis canon icus regularis'^. Erasmus praises the honesty and the 
erudition of Gaguin, and then proceeds: — 'The man who has 
exalted his native land, and enriched her, and adorned her by 

^ I may note here that as a mere handbook Caxton 's Chronicle must have 
been of great service to Major. The references to Caxton — apart from the 
frequent mention of him — might have been largely increased had I always had 
the ' Chronicle * by me for consultation. It was probably, for instance, from 
Caxton that Major took the observation that king Harold delighted to travel on 
foot rather than on horseback — given in Caxton (fol. Ixii.) thus :— * Of Kynge 
Harold that had leuer go on fote than ryde on hors backe.* The constant 
references to Caxton and quotations from him, throughout the History, led to 
the belief— which would have been very startling to Major— that he had made 
a translation of Caxton's Chronicle :— * Caxtonum Latine reddidit *,— Wodrow's 
Catalogue of Scottish Writers^ p. 2. Edin. 1833. He is credited with such a 
translation also in Crabb's Universal Historical Dictionary (1833), ^^^ probably 
in many other books of reference. 

2 The commendations of Erasmus and Girard are to 1^ found at the end of the 
Compcitdium^ ed . 1 5 1 1 . 


worthy writings has assuredly done work equal to that of him who 
has bedizened her with spoils and trophies and statues, and that 
sort of monument. For neither brazen tablet, nor inscription, nor 
medal^ nor pyramids can either declare more truly or more safely 
guard the renown of kings than these will be declared and guarded 
by the writings of an eloquent man. From this day forth the 
renown of France, which hitlierto has lain hid in narrow space, 
shall shine forth like a thunderbolt, and from a Frenchman's 
mouth, but, as is more fitting, in the trumpet tones of Rome, shall 
reach the ears of all nations^' Cornelius Girard praises the French 
historian for his impartiality. 'You spare*, he says, 'neither your 
own countrymen nor your country's enemies ; . . . neither hatred 
of the foreigner nor affection for your own people can make you 
swerve from the path of justice.' Gaguin was a * theologian * of 
the university of Paris — he had written a treatise De Puritaie 
concept'wnis Firginis ; in his old age he had written a history 
of his own country, the first, as it would appear, in which 
the writer had placed before him as his constant aim the duty 
of telling what he believed to be the truth, without respect 
of nation. It is evident that Major knew Gaguin's work well. 
We have seen that while he was himself strongly convinced that 
the theologian who wrote a history needed no excuse for so doing, 
he still thought it well to justify this course in the eyes of his 
king and country. We know that a union between Scotland 
and England had the first place in his aspirations, and that in 
the mutual asperities of the national tempers and the foolish 
habit of recrimination he saw as serious an obstacle to this con- 
summation as in the jealousies of kings and statesmen. If it must 
be considered fancifiil to suggest that a study of Gaguin's History 
gave the impulse to the wTiting of his own, it will be admitted that 
the historical and contemporary parallel is not without interest. 

There are but two editions of Major's Hisloria : the original, 
which was printed in Paris in 1521, in the lifetime of the author, 
but while he was in Scotland; and that which was printed in 
Edinburgh by Robert Freebaim in 1740. In both editions the 
running headline is ' De Gestis Scotorum'. The edition of 1521 

1 Mr. Hume Brown has pointed out to me another laudatory mention of 
Gaguin by Erasmus : * Robertus Gaguinus, quo uno litterarum parente, antistite, 
principe, Francia non injuria gloriatur.' — Erasm. Opera, iii. 1782. 


swarms with errors in the printing of proper names — errors of such 
a nature that the discovery of the true readings in the great 
majority of cases in the edition of 1740 does credit to the care 
and ingenuity of Freebairn and his editor. Except in this matter 
of proper names, and the extending of the contractions of the 
original text, the edition of 1740 neither shows, nor needed to 
show, many changes from the original. The one unfortunate 
change made in Freebaim's edition is in the reading of the clan 
names (p. 334), on which the footnote in loco may be consulted. 
In the ordinary course of translation, and for convenience of refer- 
ence, I have used Freebaim's edition, but I have in some cases 
preferred the punctuation, or the freedom afforded by no punctua- 
tion, of the original ; and in those cases, not very many, where the 
text seems to be corrupt, I have drawn attention to the fact in 
a footnote. Freebairn' s edition is nothing but a reprint of the 
original, with correction of its errors of names of places and 
persons. In the footnotes I have referred to Freebairn's edition 
as ' ¥.', and to the original as ' Orig.' 

The many footnotes to this book bring to my remembrance the 
help which has been most willingly rendered to me, in answer to 
my inquiries, by friends almost innumerable, and by many men of 
learning and position to whom I was quite unknown. Let me 
have the pleasure of here gratefully recording my obligations to 
Mr. ^neas Mackay, who was good enough to read with me a large 
part of the manuscript, and to suggest many notes connected with 
Scottish history and in other directions ; Mr. P. Hume Brown ; 
Professor Herbert Strong ; Mr. David Patrick ; the Reverend Dr. 
Jessopp ; the Marquis of Bute ; Professor Copeland, Astronomer 
Royal for Scotland ; Dr. Dickson, of H.M. General Register House ; 
Count Ugo Balzani; Mr. James Gairdner; M. Delisle of the Biblio- 
th^que National e in Paris; Mr. John Taylor Brown; Mr. J. R. 
Findlay; M. Beljame of Paris; Sir Arthur Mitchell, K.C.B. ; 
Captain G. D. Clayhills Henderson of Invergowrie ; Mr. Robert 
Bruce Armstrong; Mr. Gordon Duff; Mr. Francis Hindes Groome; 
Mr. David Mac Ritchie ; the Reverend J. C. Atkinson, D.C.L. ; the 
Reverend John Owen of Dulverton, perhaps the chief authority in 
Britain on the Scholastics; Professor Kuno Meyer ; my cousin, Mr. 
Archibald Constable; Mr. W. B. Blaikie; and Mr. Ian Mackay, 
whose kindly service to me during a temporary residence at Rouen 
I like here to remember in connection with the large service 
rendered to Scottish history by his grandfather, the late Mr. Cosmo 


Innes. To Mr. David Douglas I am indebted for the loan of his 
copy of that not very common book, the Cofnpetidium of Robert 
Gaguin ; to Emeritus Professor Blackie, to Dr. Joseph Anderson of 
the Society of Antiquaries, and to Mr. George Neilson, I am under 
obhgations for the loan of other books. To many Librarians, both 
in England and in Scotland, and especially to the Keepers of the 
Advocates* Library and the Edinburgh University Library, I am 
indebted for bibliographical information and help, and to the 
latter library for the loan of the copy of Major's Commentary on 
St. Matthew, from which the characteristic illustrations, which are 
bound up in the Appendix, were taken. My demands upon the 
forbearance of Mr. Main, Mr. Mill, and Mr. Whamond of the Signet 
Library are only rendered tolerable in the remembrance of them 
by the ready helpfulness with which these demands have been met 
at all times. 

A. C. 

Dtambcr 1891. 



John Major or Mair was born in 1469-70, the eleventh 
year of the reign of James ui., at Gleghomie, now a farm- 
house, perhaps then a hamlet, in the parish of North Berwick, 
about two miles inland from Tantallon^, the castle of the 
Douglases, and three miles from Hailes^ the castle of the 
Hepbums, to both of which families, though himself of humble 
origin, his talents introduced him. Crawford, the historio- 
grapher, in the Life prefixed to Freebaim^s edition of Major''s 
History, dates his birth as early as 1446, and Dr. Mackenzie, 
in his Lives of Scots Writers j as late as 1478 ; but he corrects Major's binh 
this in the preface to his second volume from information he 
had received from Paris, and assigns 1469 as the true date, 
A passage in one of Major''s works proves that he was really 
bom in 1469-70, for he states in the preface to a new edition, 
published in 1519, that he had then reached the confines of 
his forty-ninth year; and this is confirmed by the fact that 
he graduated as Doctor in Theology at Paris in 1505, a 
degree which could not be taken under the age of thirty-five K 
Major was alive in 1549, when he was excused from attending 

^ Appendix ii., p. 437. ^ Appendix 11., p. 425. 

' I am indebted to Mr. Archibald Constable for directing my attention to this 
passage : ' Licet enim Martinus Magister [t,e, Martin le Maistre] qusestione pen- 
ultima de temperantia dicat seniores junioribus in re scholastica invidere ; non 
sum de numero juniorum ; nam hoc libro absoluto quadragesimi noni annifimbrias 
€iggredior, * — ^Johannis Majoris in exordio prselectionis lib. quarti sententiarum ad 
auditores propositio. See Appendix 11., p. 437. This Preface is not printed in the 
earlier editions of 1509 and 1516. Mr. Hume Brown has supplied me with the 
farther corroboration of this date that a degree in theology could not be then taken 
at Paris before the age of 35. It is due, however, to Dr. Mackenzie, a writer some- 
what unfairly disparaged, to mention that he arrived at the true date of Major's 
birth in the correction made in the Preface to the second volume of his Lives of 
Scots Writers, 


a Provincial Council at Edinburgh on account of his age, and 
died in that or the following year, when his successor as 
Provost of the College of St. Salvator at St. Andrews was 
appointed. His long life of seventy-nine years was thus passed 
in the century which preceded the Scottish Reformation, a 
memorable period in the history of Scotland and of Europe. 
At Gieifhornie, He refers to Gleghornie as his birthplace in the History *, and 
fiSwick!'^ styles himself * Glegomensis ' in the titles of several of his other 

works. In his quaint manner, when he mentions any event 
which occurred near North Berwick, he notes the precise dis- 
tance, a token that he retained an affectionate recollection of 
his early home. The oatcakes baked on the girdle over the 
ashes, the mode of grinding meal and brewing beer, the way 
of catching crabs and lobsters at North Berwick, the habits of 
the Solan Geese of the Bass, the popular superstitions still 
current in the most civilised part of Scotland \ even the exact 
time at North Berwick, are described with the close observa- 
tion of a frequent eye-witness, and leave little doubt that he 
was bom in one of the thatched cottages whose fragile char- 
acter he deplores *, and was the son of one of the labourers, or 
perhaps one of the small farmers, probably of some church 
lands in the neighbourhood. It is possible his father was the 
tacksman of Gleghornie itself, whom he uses as an illustration 
in a passage of his Commentary on the Fourth Book of the Sen- 
tences of Peter Lombard*. But of his parents or descent nothing 
is certainly known. A boy of parts in that age, however 
humble his parentage, had opportunities of distinguishing him- 
self if he chose Learning or the Church as his profession. A 

^ History^ I. vi. pp. 33-4. 

' Dubitatur adhuc : Isti Fauni et vocati brobnt [brownie5\ apud nos domi qui non 
nocent, ad quod propositum talia faciunt. Respondetur: multa referuntur de 
talibus : ut proterere tantum tritici in una nocte vel sicut xx. viri terere possunt. 
Projiciunt lapillos inter sedentes prope ignem ruri, ridere videntur, et similia 
facere. Insuper dubitatur : an possunt futura predicere ; et movetur dubitatio. 
Sunt aliqui apud nostrates Britannos qui more prophetico futura predicunt utpote 
de morte et homicidio aliquorum. — Expos, in Matt,, ed. 1518, fol. xlviii. 

• History, I. v. p. 30. * Dist. xv. Qusest. 45. 


pious reference to the custom of his childhood amongst the 
country-folk of Scotland, that when the children went to bed 
they asked their parents'" blessing with outstretched hands, and 
the father gave it with God's blessing added, shows one part of 
his education had begun at home ^. 

His name is a common one in Scotland ; indeed in the Latin His name. 
form of Major it is known in England and on the Continent. 
It may have been derived from the office of Maor {Scotke 
Mair) or serjeant, the executive official of the Celtic thane, who 
remained attached to the court of the sheriff; or, more probably, 
in Lothian it meant no more than * elder \ when, surnames 
coming into use, it was necessary to distinguish between two 
persons of the same Christian name. It is noticeable that in 
several of the entries in the Registers of Paris, Glasgow, and 
St. Andrews, he is described as * Johannes (i.^. filius) Majorw''^ 
as if his father had first assumed the surname. Whether he 
owed it to his parents, or to the monks who detected his aptness 
for learning. Major received the rudiments of a good education 
in his own neighbourhood, almost certainly at the school of 
Haddington, already noted amongst the schools of Scotland, At school at 
where a little later John Knox was a scholar. In remem- 
brance of this, in some of his works he describes himself as 
^ Hadingtonanus \ and in the dedication of his treatise on the 
Fourth Book of the Sentences to Gavin Douglas, Bishop of Dun- 
keld, and Robert Cockbum, Bishop of Ross, he makes the follow- 
ing grateful reference to his connection with Haddington and its 
school : — * These reasons have led me to dedicate this work to 
you, for not only is each of you like myself a Scottish Briton 
[Scoius Britannu8\ but also my nearest neighbour in my native 
land. The Dialogue in the Preface to my treatise on the First 
Book explains the distance from the birthplace of one of you 

^ Ibid, Dist. xxiii. Qusest. 2. 

' So Prantl in his GcschichU der Logik^ iv. 217, throughout calls Major 
Johannes Majoris. But I incline to think, on a view of the whole evidence, 
that this is merely from his name usually appearing on the title-pages of his 
works in the genitive case. 



Before 1493 in 
north of 
England or 
the Borders. 

[Gavin Douglas, who was bom at Tantallon] is not more 
than a Sabbath-day's journey. Haddington has a still fuller 
right to rejoice in the origin of the other [Robert Cockbum], 
the town which fostered the beginnings of my own studies, and 
in whose kindly embraces I was nourished as a novice with the 
sweetest milk of the art of grammar, and carried on in my 
education to a pretty advanced age [langiuscula cetasl^ and it is 
not more than five miles from Gleghomie where I was bom. 
So that many persons call me not wrongly a Haddington man. 
Besides, I have enjoyed the friendly and familiar society of you 
both, at home as well as at Paris, and have been honoured by 
your public commendation, of which I cannot speak fully in few 
words. Therefore, as Sallust says of Carthage, " I prefer to be 
silent rather than say too little '\ For these causes I have deter- 
mined to dedicate this work to you, which I pray you to review 
not with severe and harsh eyebrows, but with the benignant 
and modest countenances habitual to you. Farewell. Paris, 
in the College of Montague, the Kalends of December 1516.^ 

That he was one of the youths of humble origin his country 
has often produced, eager to learn, patient in study, fond of 
argument, and of comparison, with what is called an inquisitive 
intellect, is proved by his subsequent career. 

A curious but tantalising reference in his History as to his 
personal experience informs us that Major spent seven years in 
the north, or more probably the borders ^, of England. When 
defending his country from the charge of poverty, on the 
ground that oatmeal was a common diet (for long before Dr. 
Johnson this was a vulgar scoff), he remarks : ^ It is the food 
of almost all the natives of Wales and of the northern 
English, as I know from my own seven years^ experience of 
that people [ut a septennio expertus sum ^], as well as of the 
Scottish peasantry, and yet the main strength of the Scottish 

^ A somewhat minute knowledge of the Borders between England and Scot- 
land is shown in his History^ I. v. p. 19. 
' Perhaps the meaning is ' as I have known bj experience for seven years *, 


and English armies is in the peasantry — a proof that oat bread 
is not a thing to be laughed at.** 

But as he positively states in the Dedication of his edition 
of Aristotle^s Ethics to Wolsey ^ that he first crossed the Borders 
when he went through England to Paris in 1493, it would seem 
that he considered Gleghornie on the Borders, — a flexible term 
at this period of internecine raids, and his acquaintance with 
the habits of the English may have been derived from the 
Northumberland moss-troopers. 

He chose the vocation of a travelling scholar, an excellent 
combination of the Middle Ages, in many respects preferable 
to the more sedentary training of modem times. His name 
does not appear as a student at either of the Scottish univer- 
sities then founded, in both of which he was afterwards 
a teacher, but before 1493, when already a man of twenty- 
three, he found his way to Cambridge. That university, though 
somewhat inferior to Oxford in numbers and reputation, as 
he notes with a candour creditable to a Cambridge man, and in 
spite of the attractions of Baliol College, possibly because of the 
dislike of North-countrymen which was a tradition of mediaeval 
Oxford, was then a favourite school for Scottish students. 
George Wishart, the first of the Scottish Reformers, was not 
long after a student at Corpus Christi, in the same university. 

He studied for a year, but attended lectures apparently 1^3, at God 
only for three months \ at Code's House, the earlier foundation brS^* *™ 
converted into Christ's College in 1505. He selected it for a 
reason strange to us, but at that time natural, because it 
was situated in the parish of St. Andrew ^, the patron saint of 
Scotland, and of the diocese to which Major himself belonged. 
The church dedicated to that saint still stands opposite the 
College gate over which, as at St, John^s, the other foundation 
of the Lady Margaret, the mother of Henry vii. and grand- 

bnt this scarcely removes the puzzle of the passage, as Major had been in England 
long before 15 18, the date when his History was written. 

' See Appendix 11., p, 448. ' History^ i. v. p. 25. • Ibid, 


mother of Margaret, wife of James iv., the Tudor arms are 
boldly sculptured. It may have been a consequence of this 
portion of his education that he became through life a 
strenuous advocate of the union of Scotland with England. 
The higher culture and refinement of English life certainly 
made an impression on the country-bred Scot. 

* While I was a student at Cambridge,' he says in one of 
the sidenotes which relieve the dry style of his History, 
^ during the great festivals I spent half the night awake listen- 
ing to the bells. The university is on a river, so from the 
undulation of the water their sound is sweeter.' With the 
freedom from prejudice which was one of his characteristics, 
he remarks that the bells of St. Oseney, the cradle of Oxford, 
* are the best in England, and that as in music the English 
excel all nations, so they excel in the sweet and artistic modu- 
lation of their bells ' ^. 

* No village of forty houses is without fine bells. In every 
town of any size you hear the sweetest chimes from terce to 
terce.' He enlarges, and, as his manner is, generalizes from 
his observations, the minuteness of which is noteworthy : 
^ although you may find a few as finished musicians in Scotland 
as in England, there are not nearly so many of them^' 

These remarks, intended for the ear of his own countrymen, 
to prompt them to the study and practice of music, have been 
long in bearing fruit. To a Scottish student returning from 
the English universities, the bells of his native town are not 
yet such as he would willingly lie awake to hear, and still too 
often recal by contrast the chimes of the churches and college 

* History^ ill. i, p. no. 

^ Ibid, I. iv. p. 27, with which compare I. v. p. 30, where he laments that 
the Scottish priests were ignorant of the Gregorian Chant, and his statement 
(VT. xiv. p. 366) that James I. learned music in England. * Bells were not 
universal in parish churches in Scotland even at the end of last century. It 
often happened that there was nowhere to hang them : a theologian of 1679 
inveighs against " that pitiful spectacle, bells hanging upon trees for want of bell 
houses.' " — ^Joseph Robertson, Scottish Abbeys and Cathedrals^ p. X02. 


chapels on the banks of the Isis or the Cam, the sweet changes 
rung in the towers of St. Mary in both universities, or of Christ 
Church, where the bells of Oseney Priory are said to have 
found a home in the Gatehouse tower. 

From Cambridge Major passed in 1493 to Paris, probably 
his original destination. Paris was then, especially for theo- 
logians, the most famous university in Europe. Its colleges 
were crowded with students from almost all countries, 
even the distant extremities of Europe — Scandinavia, Spain, 
Scotland — as yet without complete universities of their own. 
There were as many as 10,000 at the lowest estimate. But 
national jealousy and the growth of Oxford and Cambridge had 
recently withdrawn the English students, and the Scotch who 
continued to frequent it were now enrolled in the Natio Ale- 
mamca (or Grerman) which had been substituted for the older 
name of the Natio Anglkana, Before lie crossed the Channel 
Major had probably visited Oxford as well as Cambridge, and his 
brief notes on the universities^ and a few of the principal towns 
in England, which bear marks of personal observation, deserve Description o 
notice, as there are few diaries of intelligent travellers in the end xov^s^^nd 
of the fifteenth century now extant *. * Londinum % he says. Universities. 
^ which was called by the Britons London, is situated on the 
Thames, a river thrice the size of the Seine at Paris. It is 
visited by the ships of all nations, and has a very fine bridge and 
church. One mile to the west lies Westminster, where there is 
a royal palace, the monuments of the kings, and the seat of 
justice. Three miles to the East is Greenwich the royal port, 
where you may see in abundance barges passing up to London 
and down to the sea with sails or the tide. London elects a 
wealthy and senior tradesman yearly as Mayor, before whom a 

* He more than once refers to Oseney Priory. The long list of the famous 
men who had studied at Oxford and the comparison between the colleges at 
the two Universities indicate a knowledge of both. 

• History f I. v. p. 21. 


sword is carried as an emblem of justice, whose duty it is if 
corn is dear to import it to lower the price. It exceeds Rouen, 
the second city of France, in population, bdt is far before it in 
wealth. It is enriched by being the seat of justice, the almost 
constant residence of the king, and by the affluence of its 
merchants. Some Englishmen, with whom I agree, count the 
population of Paris three times that of London, but it is not 
three times as wealthy. In the Thames there are three or four 
thousand tame swans; but"*, he adds with characteristic caution, 
^ I merely repeat what was told me, for, though I have seen, 
I have never counted them. York is the second city of 
England, the see of an archbishop, distant fifty leagues from 
Scotland, a town of large extent, but not rich or populous, 
through the want of the three advantages London has. The 
third city is Norwich, an Episcopal See, in which that kind of 
cloth called Ostade is manufactured, both single and double. 
There are other considerable cities, — as Bristol ; Coventry, a 
good town without a river, which is remarkable; Lincoln, 
formerly famous, and many more^. England has two famous 
universities: Oxford, celebrated abroad, which has produced 
eminent philosophers and theologians, as Alexander Hales, 
Richard Middleton, John Duns the Doctor Subtilis, Ockham, 
Adam the Irishman, Strode, Bradwardine, and others V Of its 
colleges he names Magdalen and New as the foremost, each 
with a hundred bursaries — some in divinity and others in arts. 
* The other university is Cambridge, a little inferior to Oxford 
in number of students and reputation for letters.^ Of its 
colleges he mentions King'^s, which may be compared with New 
College, Oxford ; Queens^ ; a Royal Hall — inferior to Queens^ 

1 The somewhat eccentric list of English towns mentioned by Major is pro- 
bably accounted for by the fact that in each of them there was a Franciscan 
monastery. ' 

' See note I/isf. I. v. p. 23, as to the philosophers named by Major, fourteen 
in all, of whom it is noticeable that at least eight were Franciscans. 


Coll^;e — the future Trinity, not yet risen to the dignity of a 
Collie ; Chrisfs College, where he studied himself, and Jetfus, 
formerly a convent for women, reformed by Doctor Stubbs \ 
the nuns having been ejected. ^ I approve^ he adds, ^ of this 
ejection, for if convents become houses of ill fame, good in- 
stitutions must be put in their place.*" 

^ The course of study in the English universities is seven or 
eight years before graduating as master in arts. They do not 
pay much attention to grammar. The government of the 
university is in the hands of a Chancellor, like the Rector of 
Paris elected yearly, and two Proctors who have jurisdiction 
over laymen as well as students. The number of students is 
4000 or 5000, and though that of laymen [i.e. townsmen] is 
greater, they don^t venture to rise against the students, who 
would soon put them down. The students are all adults, 
and carry swords and bows, being for the most part of good 

He concludes this fragmentary but interesting sketch by 
praising the morality of the English in comparison with the 
Scottish ecclesiastics, and making one of the semi-ironical 
observations of which studious men are fond : ^ For courage, 
prudence, and other virtues the English don'^t think they are 
the least nation in the world, and if they meet a foreigner who 
has parts or bravery, it is much to be regretted, they say, that 
he was not an Englishman.'* 

While the dates of Major^s studies at Cambridge and visit to 
Oxford are not quite certain, the commencement of his curri- 
culum at Paris is fixed by an entry in the Register of Matri- 
culation in the University under the year 1493 : * Johannes Paris, 1493. 
Mair Gle&comensis, Diocesis S. Andreae."* He commenced his at College of 
course of Arts at the College of St. Barbe, of which Etienne 

^ Stabbs is unknown to the historians of Cambridge, and the real reformer 
and founder of Jesus College was John Alcock, Bishop of Ely (Mullinger, p. 321), 
to whom Major refers in his Biblical Commentary. 



Migrates to 

Elected a 
Fellow of 

Bonet ^, a philosopher and physician, was then principal, under 
John Boulac or Bouillache, curate of St. Jacques La Boucherie, 
afterwards Principal of the College of Navarre, and graduated as 
Licentiate in 1494 and as Master in 1496. His countryman, 
John Harvey \ of the Scots College, was then Rector of the 
University, and Major held under him the honourable office of 
Procurator of the German Nation, and became its Quaestor 
or Treasurer in 1501. From the College of St. Barbe Major 
migrated at the suggestion of Natalis or Noel Beda^, afterwards 
a celebrated leader of the Sorbonne, to the College of Montaigu, 
then under the government of a Fleming, John Standonk, 
who reformed it; and Standonk having been banished by 
Louis XII., Major, by the advice of Boulac, was affiliated to 
the College of Navarre \ though he continued to teach philo- 
sophy as Regent in Arts in that of Montaigu at least down 
to and probably after the year 1505, when he graduated as 
Doctor of Theology. Remaining in Paris for twelve or thir- 
teen years after his graduation he became one of its most 
famous Professors of Theology, as he had been formerly of 
Logic and Philosophy. It is probable, indeed, that he lectured 
simultaneously, as he certainly published his lectures in both 
Faculties during the same period (1509-1518). 

The period of Major^s residence in Paris was a marked epoch 
in the history of France and the University. It was the zenith 
of the Renaissance. The Revival of Learning, begun in Italy 
in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, had in the sixteenth 
crossed the Alps, and under the leadership of Erasmus taken 
root in France, England, Grermany, and the Low Coimtries. 
It was the France of the last five years of Charles viii. (1488- 

^ As to the Principalship of Etienne Bonet, see Quicherat, St, Barbe^ pp. 
54-64. He was elected 1483, and died 1497. 

' Of John Harvey I find no mention except in Mackenzie's Lives of Scots 
JVnters, 2 Pref. p. 121. 

• As to Noel Beda, see Hume Brown's Memoir of Buchanan^ p. 69. 

■* Launoi : Kegia Navarra Hist, Op. iv. p. 396. 


1498), of the reign of Louis xii. (1498-1515), and the first 

three years of Francis i. (1515-47), during which Major passed 

his life as Student, Regent in Arts, and Doctor in Theology 

in its capital. During these years the consolidation of the French hUtor 

kingdom and the formation of modem France by the absorp- residence in 

tion of the great feudal houses was completed. Charles viii. by 

marrying Anne, heiress of Brittany, united the French Wales 

to the Crown, and Louis xii. retained it, divorcing his wife 

Jane of France and marrying the widow of Charles. He 

added himself the large domains of the House of Orleans. 

Encouraged by the growth of their kingdom and the divisions 

of Italy, the French monarchs made the fatal attempt to annex 

parts of the peninsula where so many Frenchmen found their 

tombs. The survivors brought back the learning, arts, and 

manners of the more civilised but more luxurious south. 

History repeated with altered names the lines of Horace : — 

' GrsBcia capta ferum victorem cepit et artes 
Intulit agresti Latio.' 

Italy, unlike Greece, was overrun, not subdued. In 1494 
Charles vui. marched through Rome to Naples; but his 
campaign was a triumph not a conquest. Louis xii. renewed 
the war, claiming Milan as well as Naples, for whose partition 
he entered into a league with Ferdinand of Aragon. That 
astute monarch succeeded in gaining the whole, and became 
in 1504 king of the Two Sicilies. 

In 1508 along with Pope Julius n. the two ambitious kings 
joined in the League of Cambrai to crush the Republic of 
Venice, but the Pope suddenly deserted his French allies and 
made a new league, which he called the Holy League, to drive 
the French barbarians from Italy. Though Louis defeated the 
Spaniards at Ravenna the aid of the Swiss enabled the Pope to 
accomplish his purpose. The French quitted Italy before the 
death of Louis in 1515. His successor, Francis i., a young 
and hazardous monarch, engaged in a contest for the Imperial 


Crown and the primacy of Europe with Charles v., who on the 
death of his grandfather Maximilian became emperor. Francis 
recovered Milan, but was taken prisoner at Pavia in 1525, and 
though he broke the treaty of Madrid and resumed the war in 
Relations of 1529 he was forced to relinquish Italy. While these events 

England and ... , 

Scotland. were occupying the politicians and armies of Europe, Scotland, 

which had been at peace with England during the reign of 
Henry vii., through the marriage of his daughter to James iv., 
quarrelled with Henry viii., and lost her king by the fatal 
defeat of Flodden in 1513. Henry viii. was too busy with his 
relations to the Continent to press his advantage. His aim as 
regards Scotland was to prevent the French alliance and main- 
tain an ascendancy at the court of his sister^s infant son. The 
failure of this aim was due largely to his sister, the mother of 
the king, and to Albany, a Frenchman in all but his name, who 
threw their influence into the scale in favour of France. The 
Regency of Albany led in 1623 to the renewal by the Scots 
of the Border War and the siege of Werk, the failure of which 
destroyed the prestige of the Regent. 

During the period the history of which has been sketched 
in outline, France was both on political and educational 
grounds the natural resort of the Scottish student ambitious 
of carrying his studies to the highest point and sure of a hos- 
pitable reception from a nation which had never forgotten the 
ancient bonds that united Scotland and France. France as it 
then was is described in the beautiful verses of the great contem- 
porary Scottish scholar, the pupil of Major, Greorge Buchanan : 

' At tu beata Gallia 
Salve ! bonarum blanda nutrix artium^ 
Orbem receptans hospitem atque orbi tuas 
Opes vicissim non avara impertiens^ 
Sermone comis^ patria gentium omnium 

Its Capital has been painted in a brilliant passage of a great 
French author of our day, who combined the knowledge of an 


antiquary and the imagination of a poet, with which we may 
enliven the prose of a biographic sketch. 

In the fifteenth century, writes Victor Hugo^, ^ Paris was Puris in the 
divided into three totally distinct and separate cities, each 
with its own physiognomy, individuality, manners, customs, 
privileges, and history: the Citt/y the University^ and the 
ViUe. The City^ which occupied the island, was the mother of 
the two others, like (forgive the comparison) a little old woman 
between two handsome strapping daughters. The University 
crowned the left bank of the Seine. . . • The ViUe^ the most 
extensive of the three divisions, stretched along the right bank. 
The Ciij/y properly so called, abounded in churches, the ViUe 
contained the palaces, the University the colleges. The island 
was under the Bishop, the right bank under the Provost of 
Merchants, the left under the Rector of the University, the 
whole under the Provost of Paris, a royal not a municipal 
office.' Omitting details, let us fix our attention on the Univer- 
sity, the part of Paris of which Major was a citizen, for foreign 
students acquired the rights, indeed more than the rights, of 
citizens, and the Scotch at this time those of nationality. 

* The University brought the eye to a full stop. From the The Univerei 
one end to the other it was a homogeneous compact whole. 
Three thousand roofs, whose angular outlines, adhering 
together, almost all composed of the same geometrical 
elements, seen from above, presented the appearance of a 
crystallisation. The forty-two colleges were distributed among 
them in a sufficiently equal manner. The curious and varied 

^ This bird*s-eye view of Paris should be compared with the old plans and 
maps of the sixteenth century. Zeiller's views were taken in the middle of the 
seventeenth century, but two show Paris as it was in 1620, and are probably 
accurate representations of Paris as it was in Major's time. M. Adolphe Berty*s 
' Plan du Collie de St. Barbe et de ses environs vers 1480 ' is given in 
Quicherat's S/. Barbe, The clever reconstruction by Mr. H. W. Brewer in 
Rose's Life of Loyola unfortunately places Montaigu College inaccurately. The 
description by Victor Hugo in the text has necessarily, but unfortunately, re- 
quired to be condensed. 


summits of these beautiful buildings were the productions of 
the same art as the simple roofs they overtopped ; in fact they 
were but a multiplication by the square or cube of the same 
geometrical figures. Some superb mansions made here and 
there magnificent inroads among the picturesque garrets of the 
left bank, the Logis de Nevers and de Rouen^ which have been 
swept away ; the HStel of Cluny^ which still exists for the 
consolation of the artist. The Rouen palace had beautiful 
circular arches. Near Cluny were the baths of Julian. There 
were, too, many abbfeys: the Bernardtnes^ with their three 
belfries ; St. Genevieve^ the square tower of which, still 
extant, excites regret for the loss of the whole ; the Sorbonne, 
half college, half monastery, an admirable nave of which 
still survives: the quadrangular cloister of the Mathurvns\ 
its neighbour, the cloister of St Benedict ; the Cordeliers^ with 
their three enormous gables side by side ; and the Angustines'' 
graceful steeple. The Colleges^ an intermediate link between 
the cloister and the world, formed the mean in the series of 
buildings between the mansions and the abbeys, with an 
austerity full of elegance, a sculpture less gaudy than that of 
the palaces, less serious than that of the convents. Unfortun- 
ately scarcely any vestiges are left of edifices in which Gothic 
art steered with such precision a middle course between 
luxury and learning. The churches, both numerous and 
splendid, of every age of architecture, from the circular arch 
of St, Julian to the pointed ones of St, Severing overtopped 
all, and, like an additional harmony in this mass of harmonies, 
shot up above the slashed gables, the open-work pinnacles and 
belfries, the airy spires, whose line was a magnificent exaggera- 
tion of the acute angle of the roofs. The site of the University 
was hilly. To the south-east the hill of St, Genevieve formed 
an enormous wen, and it was a curious sight to see the 
multitude of narrow winding streets now called Le Pays Latin^ 
those clusters of houses, which, scattered in all directions from 


the summit of that eminence, confusedly covered its sides down 
to the water^s edge, seeming, some of them to be falling down, 
others to be climbing up again, and all to be holding fast by 
one another/ The more minute geography of the Pays Latin 
has been learnedly described by M . Quicherat, from whom we 
learn that the College of Montaigu^ stood at the angle between site of 
the Rue St. Etienne des Pr^ and the Rue des Sept Voies, ^°"^*^ 
having opposite to it on the other side of the latter street the 
small College de Portet, the Hotel de Marly, the Cemetery of 
the Poor Students, and the Great Grate of the Abbey of St 
Genevieve \ At the back of the buildings of M ontaigu ran a 
narrow lane appropriately called ^ La Rue des Chiens\ on the 
opposite side of which Montaigu possessed two small gardens 
bordering on the property of its rival, the College of St. Barbe, 
and the cause of frequent quarrels ^ 

The Scottish student whose course we are attempting to 
follow, poring day and night over ponderous folios we now 
scarcely touch with the tips of our fingers, the commentators 
on Aristotle and the expounders of the Master of the Sen- 
tences, had little time to mark the minute features of the 
scene. Still, he breathed its air, and can scarcely have failed 
to receive some of the spirit which filled with pride most 
scholars, from whatever country they came. A few remembered 
with opposite feelings the hardships of the student. Erasmus 
was one of these. Buchanan too wrote a poem describing the 
miserable condition of the teachers of Literae Humaniores in 
Paris when without a post. But, returning seven years after 
from Portugal, his pen, which could flatter as well as satirise, 
celebrated the charms of Paris as those of a beloved mistress, 
and his return to happy France, the nurse of all good arts. One 

' The site of Montaigu, of which some fragments still remained in i86i, is 
now occupied by the Biblioth^que de St. Genevieve. 
' Quicherat's Histoire de St, Barbe ^ p. 17. 
3 Jbid. 25. 


of its attractions with which Hugo closes his description cannot 
have escaped Major's musical ear : — ^ Behold at a signal proceed- 
ing from heaven, for the sun gives it, those thousand churches 
trembling all at once. You hear solitary tinkles pass from 
church to church ; then see (for at times the ear too seems 
endowed with the power of sight) all of a sudden, at the same 
moment, how there rises from each steeple, as it were a column 
of sound, a cloud of harmony. At first the vibration of each 
bell rises straight, pure, separate; then, swelling by degrees, 
they blend, melt, and amalgamate into a magnificent concert. 
Say if you know anything in the world more rich, more dazzling, 
more gladdening, than this tumult of bells, this furnace of music, 
these ten thousand brazen tones breathed all at once from flutes 
of stone three hundred feet high, than that city which is 
but one orchestra, this symphony as loud as a tempest.' 
Contrast of How different must this have been from the capital of Major's 

Paris and ^ '' 

Edinbuigh. own Country, the gray metropolis of the North, whose silence 
was broken not by harmony but by brawls, with one narrow 
street from the Castle to the Abbey, the backbone of a 
skeleton ribbed on either side with vennels, wynds, and closes, 
which ran on the north to the North Loch and its marshes, 
on the south to the lower level of the Cowgate, here and there 
varied by a small church, monastery, or hospital, but only 
with a collegiate church, St. Giles, for a Cathedral, the plain 
Tolbooth for a Palace of Justice, and Holyrood, recently 
built in imitation of a minor French Palace, for its Royal 
residence, as yet without a college, without mansions, and 
without walls, and numbering only some four or five thousand ^ 
houses, chiefly of wood. Yet, one who viewed the surrounding 
country from the low but noble hill, named after Arthur, 
guarding Edinburgh on the east, and let his eye follow the 

^ History, II. vi. p. 82. So the earlier editions of Froissart; but Buchon 
says the correct text is 4CX> or 500. The truth probably lies between these 
figures. But see footnote ^ p. 28. 


curves of the Forth, with the Law of North Berwick and the 
Bass as its outlying forts, the sea-ports of Fife studding its 
northern margin; on the west the Castle Rock, rising sheer 
from the North Loch, the woods of the Dean or Den, Drum- 
sheugh, and Corstorphine Hill ; and on the south the slopes 
of the Braids succeeded by the Pentland Hills, with Highland 
mountain tops beyond the Forth closing the horizon, might 
claim for Edinburgh a natural site not inferior to Paris, fitting 
it to be the capital of the small country whose scenery it 
reproduced in miniature — the Loch, the River, and the Sea, 
the Moor, the Forest, and the Mountain. Greater than any 
external difference was the contrast between the intellectual 
barrenness of Edinburgh and Paris, the venerable museum of 
learning, the busy hive from which old and new ideas were 
swarmii^, to settle in all lands. The Scottish student in 
Paris passed from the schoolroom to the world, from solitary 
study to the society of colleges, whose number. Major notes, 
sharpens wits. The poorest became, as if by natural magic, a 
free citizen of the university, the mother of knowledge and 
eloquence, of the arts and sciences : the arts which so long had 
ruled the past; the sciences, yet unconscious of their young 
strength, which were to divide the empire of the future. 

Three of these Colleges demand our special attention : Mont- Montaigu 
aigu, where Major first taught in arts ; Navarre, where, as well 
as at Montaigu, he lectured on the scholastic philosophy ; and 
the Sorbonne, where he lectured on the scholastic divinity^. 

* * The epithet of " last of the Schoolmen " is commonly given to Gabriel Biel, 
the summarizer of Ockham, who taught in Tubingen, and died in 1491. His 
title to it is not actually correct, and it might be more fitly borne by Francis 
Suarez, who died in 16 17. But after the beginning of the fifteenth century 
scholasticism was divorced from the spirit of the times.' — Article scholasti- 
cism, EfuycUp, Britannica^ 9th ed. The truth is, no one scholastic can be 
called the last. The method or form of philosophy so called died at different 
dates in different countries. A critic who has done me the favour to read this 
Introduction maintains it is not dead yet, but still taught in Romanist seminaries. 
It is sufficient for the present purpose to say that no English or Scottish School- 
man later than Major has a place in any of the leading histories of philosophy. 



He was destined to be among the last of the schoobnen, the 
teachers of the old learning by the rigid scholastic discipline 
and methods. The new light of the revival of classical litera- 
ture had already dawned. The Renaissance, or new birth, 
from which on the mother'^s side the Reformation or new form 
of creed and of morals was to spring, could not but affect the 
thoughts and opinions of those who were passing through 
manhood under its influence. To observe how this influence 
acted upon Major and his pupils gives the uneventful career of 
scholars a singular and unexpected interest. 

The College of Montaigu, an old college of the beginning of 
the fourteenth century, founded by Ascelin, the Seigneur of 
that name, had fallen so low towards the end of the fifteenth, 
that it had only eleven shillings of rent for endowment, its 
buildings in ruins, and, as might be expected, scarcely any 
students. John Standonk, a native of Mechlin in Brabant, a 
man of humble origin, saw in its poverty an object for zeal, 
and an opportunity for a much-needed reform in the Univer- 
sity. This remarkable man, whom Erasmus, no partial judge, 
describes as one ^ whose temper you could not dislike, and 
whose qualifications you must covet, who, while he was very 
poor, was very charitable \ after taking his degrees in arts and 
theology with distinction, though poverty forced him to read 
by moonlight in the belfry to save oil, was placed in this 
college by the Chapter of Notre Dame, its superior, in 1480, 
became its principal in 1483, and Rector of the University in 
^ndonk's 1485. He sought out the titles of its property which had been 
lost sight of, and secured new endowments, especially from 
Louis Malet, Sieur de Granville, Admiral of France. The con- 
stitution he introduced was based on rules of economy and 
asceticism resembling those of a monastery. He had seen with 
regret, continues Cr^vier, the historian of the University, whose 
narrative we abridge, ^ that the bursaries founded for the poor 
had often been swallowed up by the rich, and determined to 


found a College for the true poor, amongst whom, he remarked, 
were often to be found elevated spirits and happy natural 
parts, reduced by misery to a state unworthy of their genius, 
but who, if cultivated, might become great men and pillars 
of the Church. With this view, and to preserve the Col- 
lege from the invasion of the rich, he subjected his students 
to a hard life.** At first his scholars were sent to the Convent 
of the Chartreuse to receive, in common with beggars, the 
bread distributed at its gates. *A11 the world knows \ he 
proceeds, *the frugal nourishment of these youths — bread, 
beans, eggs, herring, all in small quantity, and no meat. 
Besides, they had to Ic^ep all the Fasts, — that of Lent 
was kept also in Advent, — and on every Friday, as well as on 
special occasions. Nothing could be poorer than their dress and 
beds. They rose at cock-crow, constantly chanted the service 
of the Church, worked in the kitchen and refectory and 
cleaned the halls, the chapel, the dormitory, and the stairs. 
Their superior was called minister or servant of the poor, not 
by the too proud titles of master or principal. He received in 
this world only the cost of his living, dress, and of taking his 
degrees, exclusive of the Doctorate^ but a celestial reward in 
eternity.^ Richer students had separate rooms, refectory, and 
chapel. Their fees were devoted to the maintenance of the 
poor. Remembering his native as well as his adopted 
country, Standonk instituted similar colleges at Cambrai, 
Louvain, Mechlin, and Valenciennes, so that the College of 
Montaigu became the chief of an order. The peculiar dress 
of its students was a small cape or hood, from which they 
were called Capetians, a symbol of their poverty, and, like 
the garb of Charterhouse boys, exposing them to the gibes of 
wealthier scholars. 

The noble aim of Standonk, like that of the religious Erasmus* sati 
orders, broke down through being carried to an extreme. ^^ °"^'fi^- 
Erasmus, a contemporary of Major at Montaigu, has left 


a biting satire on it in his colloquy — of Ichthyophagia — 
between a Salt-fishmonger and a Butcher, who complains of 
want of custom from a college which ate no meat. 

* About thirty years ago\ says the Fishmonger, *I lived 
at the college called Vinegar College [i.e. Mons Acetus]^ a 

pun on Mons Acutus, or Montaigu. The Butcher, * That ""s 

indeed a name of wisdom. Did a Salt-fishmonger live in that 
sour college ? No wonder he is so acute a student in divinity, 
for I hear the very walls speak divinity.^ — 7%^ Fishmonger. 
*Yes, but as for me I brought nothing out of it, but 
my body infected with the worst diseases, and the largest 
quantity of the smallest animals. . . . What with lying hard, 
bad diet, late and hard studies, within one year, of many young 
men of a good genius some were killed, others driven mad, 
others became lepers, some of whom I knew very well, 
and, in short, not one but was in danger of his life. 
Was not this cruelty against our neighbours? Neither was 
this enough, but, adding a cowl and hood, he took away the 
eating of flesh.'' More follows to the same purpose. It is 
easy to see the exaggeration, but Erasmus, too wise to rest in 
exaggeration, closes with the remark : * Nor do I mention these 
things because I have any ill will to the college, but I thought 
it worth while to give this warning lest human severity should 
mar inexperienced and tender youth under the pretence of 
religion. If I could but see that those that put on a cowl 
put off naughtiness I should exhort everybody to wear one. 
Besides, the spirit of vigorous youths is not to be cowed to 
this sort of life, but the mind is rather to be educated to 
piety.** Not less sensible are the remarks of Crevier, who 
condemned Erasmus for want of moderation in his censures. 
* The health of young men requires to be attended to, and it is 
to attack it by two batteries to fatigue the spirit by study and 
the body by a too severe regimen. The discipline of Standonk 
has not been able to maintain itself. Besides mitigations 


introduced by usage, it had to be softened by express rules/ 
Yet it was still described by a German artist, who visited Paris 
in 1654, as ^a stately college in which ill-bred boys [u7igerathene 
JCinder] are treated as if in a House of Correction. We were 
not allowed to visit it with our sword, supposing it might be 
used to set them free'*^ 

Erasmus had the bodily infirmity which, as in a great chief 
of our literature lately lost, too often accompanies intellectual 
power. He said of himself he had a Protestant stomach, but 
a Catholic souL A Protestant who has rarely dined in his life 
without meat can scarcely realise what a bad fish and vegetable 
diet, broken only by frequent total fasts, must have been. 
Major, who probably heard the taunts of Erasmus before they Major's 
found a place in in his Colloquies^ takes frequent occasion to Montaigu. 
refer to Montaigu College in a different spirit, calling it ^ an 
illustrious museum \ ^ a frugal, but not ignoble house \ ^ the 
nurse of his studies, never to be named without reverence \ 
Yet he seems himself to have suffered from the hard life, 
for he mentions, in the dedication of the Parva Logicalia^ a 
fever which had nearly cost him his life. He had doubtless 
seen many of his contemporaries and pupils, besides David 
Cranstoun, carried to the Graveyard of Poor Students, which 
lay opposite the College gate. 

To the Scottish father in the end of the fifteenth century, 
inquiring to what college shall I send my son, or to the youth 
left to shift for himself with scanty purse, these hardships 
were too distant to be thought of. The College of Montaigu Scottish 
offered the double attraction of economy and fame. Hither, Montaigu. 
besides many forgotten names, came, during the time of Major^s 
connection with it, George Dundas from Lothian, a learned 
Greek and Latin scholar, afterwards Preceptor of the Knights 
of St. John in Scotland ; Hector Boece, the historian, from 
Dundee, who praises Standonk as an exemplar of all the virtues ; 

. ^ Topcgraphia Gallia^ by Martin Zeiller ; Frankfort, 1655. 


and three other Angus men: Patrick Panther, who became 
secretary to James iv., writer of most of the Epistolse Regum 
Scotorum in James iv/s and part of James v/s reign ; Walter 
Ogilvy, celebrated for his eloquent style, and William Hay, 
schoolfellow of Boece at Dundee, afterwards his colleague and 
successor in the King^s College of Aberdeen K Here too were 
four countrymen of Major from East Lothian : George Hep- 
bum*, of the house of Hailes, Abbot of Arbroath, afterwards 
Bishop of the Isles, who fell at Flodden ; Robert Walterson', a 
co-regent; David Cranstoun^ and Ninian Hume, his pupils. 
Cranstoun dying young, but already distinguished, left his 
property to the College ; the other was one of Major's favourite 
students. In Paris, possibly at Montaigu, as we learn for the 
first time from one of Major'*s prefaces, at the same period 
studied Gavin Douglas, Bishop of Dunkeld, whose chequered 
ecclesiastical and brilliant literary career gained him a prominent 
place in the history as well as the literature of Scotland ; and 
Robert Cockbum, a Haddington man, afterwards Bishop of 
Ross ^, and Gavin Dunbar ^, afterwards Archbishop of Glasgow, 
whose studies in philosophy at Paris, and in the civil and canon 
law at Angers, overlooked by his biographers, are commemo- 
rated in Major'^s dedication of his Commentary on St. Luke. 

The number of Scottish students at Paris during the time of 
Major'^s residence must have been very considerable, though 
it is impossible to give an exact estimate. The German 
Nation, the name substituted for the English Nation in 1378, 
after the withdrawal of the English, had been originally 
divided into three tribes: Germania Superior, Germania 

^ Hector Boece : Aberdonensium Episcoporum Vitae^ p. 6a 

' Uncle of first Earl of Bothwell. See Keith : Scottish Bishops, p. 174. 

* Provost of Bothanis and Rector of Petcokkis, grants a charter of lands in 
Haddington to support a chaplain at the church of the Holy Trinity at Had- 
dington. — Great Seal Reg, , 8th April 1539, No. 1902. 

* Michel : Z^s Ecossais en France, ii. p. 324. See Appendix I. p. 412 : Biblio- 
graphy of D. Cranstoun. 

* Bishop 1508-21.— Keith, p. 42. • Archbishop 1524-47.— Keith, p. 521. 


Inferior, and Scotia, which included the Irish and the few 
English who remained, continued to be the name of the 
third till 1528, when the tribes were reduced to two: the 
ConHneniales and the Insuiani, perhaps a concession to the 
dislike of the English to be classed under Scotia when the 
relations between England and France had somewhat improved. 
Besides the more celebrated of his countrymen already men- 
tioned, we find references in Major'^s prefaces to Hugo Spens, his other Scots- 
predecessor as Principal of, St. Salvator's ; Gavin Logy, Rector 
of St. Leonardos ; John Forman, Precentor of Glasgow^, a kins- 
man of the archbishop of that name ; Peter Chaplain^, Rector 
of Dunino, and Peter Sandilands^, Rector of Calder ; Robert 
Caubraith^ Greorge TurnbulP, friends of Ninian Hume, — so, 
probably, like him, Lothian men ; George Lockhart® from Ayr- 
shire; Robert Bannerman, Thomas Ramsay^, William Guynd, 
and John Annand. The list might be much enlarged from the 
Accounts of the German Nation from 1494 to 1530, fortunately 
preserved in the archives of the University, and still extant in 
the library of the Sorbonne^. In the year 1494, when Major 

• Protocol Book of Cuthbert Simon, Grampian CM, pp. 285, 478, 480, 484, 

" Canon of St. Salvator and Rector of Dunino. — Grea/ Seal Reg. 1 51 3-46, 
Index, p. 803 ; ibidem, Nos. 354, 2168, 2605. 

' Hector Boece in Aberdonensium Episcoporum Vitae, p. 58, mentions amongst 
the Professors at St. Andrews, Wilhelmum Guyndum, Jobannem Annandiae, 

* viros spectatae doctrinae qui tametsi hactenus magisterii in tbeologio renuerunt 
lastigium de se modestius senlientes doctoribus tamen eos nemo dixerit eruditione 
inferiores.' Annand was the first Professor in Arts (in re literaria) of St. 
Leonard's, ib, p. 59. 

^ Robert Caubraith, a pupil of Major, and author of several works on Logic, 
described by Prantl, iv. p. 257, may perhaps be Robert Galbraith, Rector of 
Spot in 1534. — Great Seal Reg,, No. 1332. 

• George TumbuU may perhaps be the Rector of Largo of that name. — Great 
Seal Reg. 1517, No. 1355. 

• George Lockhart, a pupil of Major, wrote several works on Logic, described 
in the Bibliographical Appendix, infra, p. 414. 

' Canon of St. Salvator, and Rector of Kemback i$iy.— Great Seal Reg, 

No. 175. 

• Charles Jourdain*s Excursions Historiques ti travers U May en Age, 1888 : 

* Un Compte de la Nation d'Allemagne au xv« si^cle.* 


passed as licentiate, of twenty-nine fellow-graduates eleven wene 
Scotchmen, besides eight bachelors. His election as Quaestor 
or Receiver of this Nation in 1501 is proof that he possessed 
the confidence of his fellow-students, and the passages from 
the Prefaces to his works printed in the Appendix show that 
many of them, not only his own compatriots, but Frenchmen, 
Belgians, and Spaniards, were his warm admirers and personal 
friends. Seldom has the contemporary fame of a Professor 
risen higher or spread wider, 
^lue of Of his favourite and most distine^uished pupil David Crans- 
toun Major tells a significant anecdote ^ When in his first 
course of theology, two fellow-students. Jacobus Almain of 
Sens 2 and Peter of Brussels^, of the order of Friar Preachers, 
twitted him in the court of the Sorbonne, on the day of the 
divinity lecture, before his comrades, that the commons in 
Scotland eat oatmeal, as they had heard from a friar who had 
travelled there. They wished, says Major, to try a man whose 
quick temper they knew, by this jest which was really 
honourable to his country ; but he attempted to deny it as a 
discredit. We understand, indeed, he adds, * that a French- 
man coming from Britain brought home with him some of these 
cakes [panes] as curiosities [monstraj. He then describes with 
singular accuracy and evident pride the mode of making them, 
and recals Froissarf's ^ statement that the Scotch, both nobles 
and commons, used them in their campaigns, as if to say (for 
he leaves deductions to his readers), — *Let Frenchmen and 

1 Hist, I. ii. p. 10. 

3 Almain's works on Logic, described by PrantI, iv. p. 238, appear to be lost, 
but his Theological Dissertation against Cardinal Caietan, and in favour of the 
authority of Councils as superior to that of the Pope, is preserved, p. IvijL 

' Peter of Brussels wrote Quaestiotus on the Organon of Aristotle, a Com- 
nunlary on Peter the Spaniard, and Quodlibeta, — Prantl, iv. p. 275. He died 
1 51 1. On the title-page of his Quacstiones^ published after his death in 15 14, 
he is described as ' a most strenuous defender and interpreter of Thomas Aquinas '. 
He was regarded as a lost sheep recovered for the Told of the Thorn ists. 

* Froissart, ii. 19. 


Englishmen laugh, my countrymen have won battles on this 
fare\ Froissart might almost have been the Frenchman who 
brought home the oatcakes, so keenly does he seem to have been 
struck by the poverty of the Scots. * When the barownes and 
knightes of Fraunce, who were wonte to fynde fayre hostelryes, 
halles hanged, and goodly castelles, and softe beddes to reste 
in, sawe themselfes in that necessite, they began to smyle, and 
said to the ad my rail. Sir, what pleasure hath brought vs 
hyder? we neuer knewe what pouertie ment tyll nowe: we 
fynde nowe the old sayinge of our fathers and mothers true, 
whane they wolde saye. Go your waye, and ye lyue long, ye 
shall fynde harde and poore beddes, whiche nowe we fynde; 
therfore lette vs go oure voyage that we be come for ; lette vs 
ryde into Englade ; the longe leivyenge here in Scotlande is to 
vs nother honourable nor profytable/ 

To the youth of such a country the food of the College of 
Montaigu would not seem so poor as to Erasmus, a native of 
wealthy Rotterdam. 

In 1499 Standonk, the second founder of Montaigu, was 
banished from Paris. He had quarrelled with Louis xu. as to 
the privileges of the students of the university, of which he was 
so strenuous an advocate that he advised a cessation of all 
studies, and even of the services in the churches, if they were 
infringed. He had touched the king in a still more delicate 
point, the divorce of Louis from Jane of France, the daughter 
of Louis XI., and his marriage to Anne of Brittany, widow of 
Charles vm., his half-brother. It was very likely in conse- Major lecture 
quence of this banishment of Standonk, and the royal dis-coUege?" 
pleasure with the College of Montaigu, that Major became 
affiliated to the College of Navarre, from which he got the 
income of a fellowship ^ and the post of theological professor, 
but he continued to act as regent in Montaigu, where he had 
taken his degree in arts, which entitled him to teach, and did 

^ Launoi : Historia, p. 598. 



not avail himself of his right to migrate to Navarre. The 

substance of his lectures on Logic, printed before in separate 

parts, was collected in 1508 in one volume, printed at Lyons, 

His Spanish and dedicated to his pupil Ninian Hume. In the dedication 

he mentions that he had been urged by Louis Coronel, his 
brother Antony^, and Caspar Lax^, three Spanish students, to 
print his commentaries on the Summulae of their countryman, 
Peter the Spaniard. They pleaded that as he had given some 
of his lectures on logic to his countryman David Cranstoun, 
James Almain of Sens, Peter Crockaert of Brussels, and Robert 
Senalis of Paris^, they had equal reason to ask for a similar 
favour. But he urges reasons on the other side (for even the 
preface of a schoolman must be argumentative): his own inertia, 
the severe criticism of works of living authors, and his change 
of vocation to that of the study of the Sentences of Peter 
Lombard. He had always been willing to lecture slowly, that 
whoever wished might commit his lectures to writing. 'It is 
natural, however \ he continues, Hhat I should publish at 
large and distinctly what they wrote down from memory after 
dinner and supper. If I had imagined my lectures would have 
circulated so widely, I would have bestowed greater pains on 
them. But I did not know how to recall them, and since they 
were much sought after at the booksellers", I should at least 
have ploughed my own ground so far as my poor abilities 
allowed. It is easy \ he concludes, * to get angry. Unlearned 
as well as learned write poems everywhere. I dedicate these 
lectures to you both on account of your noble birth and your 
diligence in the knotty points of dialectic — knowing you 
will accept this little book, though unworthy of you, out of 
regard for the good-will of the author. Robert Walterson of 

> The author of many Logical Treatises. — Prantl, iv. p. 53. 

• Caspar Lax, of Aragon, also a writer on Logic. — Prantl, iv. p. 255. 

' The Exponibilia^ his first printed work in Paris, 1503 (Bibliography, No. i), 
the Commentaries on Peter the Spaniard at Lyons in 1505 (No. 2); other 
Logical Tracts at Paris in 1506 (No. 5). 


Haddington, a co-regent with me in Montaigu, and our friend 
John Zacharias, beg to be remembered to you. Farewell.' 

A letter from Louis Coronel^ to his brother Antony is Louis Coronc 
annexed, written in the enthusiastic vein of a young disciple m^*^"" °° 
overflowing with praise of the learning of Paris, ' whose 
streams flow to the remotest nations, and whose purest water 
springs from Mons Acutus, ^^ the Hill of 6od^, a rich mountain 
in which it pleaseth him to dwell, for the words of the Psalmist 
may without absurdity be applied to it — whose founder was 
Standonk, whom God has taken to himself^, and where our 
master, John Major, lectured, whose learning will commend 
him not only to posterity but to eternity \ His small part 
has been, he modestly says, to revise the press and add a table 
of contents, which he dedicates to his brother in studies as 
in kin. In similar, even more high-flown, language Robert 
Senalis compared Montaigu to Parnassus, the Mons Sacer of 
Ovid, * changing Sacer into Acer, in spite of the false quantity, 
to correspond to the French name of Montaigu \ the philosophy 
taught there to the fountain of Hippocrene — 

* Fons nitet in medio vitreis argenteus undis 
Gregorius celeri quern pede ferit equus — 

and Major himself to *the Gregorian horse Pegasus', for *it8 
Pegasus \ he says, ^ is that incomparable master in Arts and 
Philosophy, my Professor, whom I cannot praise as much as he 
deserves, John Major, who flies on his own wings higher than 
the clouds would carry him, till he passes aliove all spirits in 
sublimity \' 

The treatise or lectures of Major on Logic are in the style Major's 
which might be almost called stereotyped of mediaeval scholas- Logic 

^ Louis Coronel of Segovia was less famous than his brother Antony, who 
wrote several works on Logic in which he followed Major. — Prantl, iv. 252. 
Both brothers were pupils of Major. Antony edited and concluded Major's 
UM Cottsequentiarum ; see p. Ivi. 

' Standonk died 1 501. 

• * Roberti Senalis Oratio' : Paris, 15 10. 


tics. He commences with the specisd proposition or thesis 
* Whether complex terms should be used ' ^, as a sort of prelude 
or introduction, and then comments in short almost shorthand 
tracts on various points of Logic. This is followed by two 
books on Terms and a tractate on the Liber Summularum of 
Petrus Hispanus^9 which forms the chief part of the book. 
Discussions are appended on the Predicables with the tree of 
Porphjrry ; on the Predicaments ; on Syllogisms ; on Places [de 
Locis] ; on Fallacies ; on matters which can be explained and 
those which are insoluble ; a small tract entitled, after the 
example of Aristotle, Libri Posteriores; and another, Libri Con- 
sequentiarum, begun by Major but concluded by Antony Coronel. 
In the same volume is continued a treatise on Parva Logicalia, 
probably a separate course of lectures, with a fresh dedication 
to Ninian Hume. The whole is concluded with a discussion 
of a proposition or thesis ^ On the Infinite \ and one of the 
Dialogues of which Major, like other Schoolmen, was so fond, 
entitled *Trilogus inter duos logicos et magistrum\ 
College of The College of Navarre which hospitably adopted the cele- 

brated Scottish Regent was in all respects a contrast to 
Montaigu. A Royal College founded in 1305 by Jeanne of 
Navarre, the wife of Philip the Fair, it had continued to 
receive endowments from sovereigns and nobles, and was the 
richest, perhaps the only very rich, college in a university where 
poverty, although not the extreme poverty of Montaigu, was 
the rule. It had twenty bursars in grammar, thirty in logic, and 
twenty in divinity, and secured the ablest teachers. Its church 
was used by the French Nation and for university sermons, which 
gave it a certain precedence. It had the custody of the univer- 
sity archives and a splendid library. A reform of the fifteenth 

* De compUxo sigfiificahili, A fuller list of the contents of Major's Logical 
Lectures is given in the Bibliography, and an explanation of some of the terms 
used, in Appendix to Life, ii. p. cxxii. 

• Peter the Spaniard, who became Pope John xxi., and whose Summula were 
the text-book of Logic as the Sentences of Peter the Lombard, Bishop of Paris, 
were of Divinity. 



century made it a college * de plein exercice'', with a full curri- 
culum in Arts, in which Logic as well as Grammar and Rhetoric 
weretaught. It had even retained two courses inTheology, which 
the Sorbonne tried to absorb to the exclusion of other colleges. 
But its chief fame was due to an illustrious succession of students 
and doctors. Launoi, himself a fellow in the seventeenth century, 
wrote an elaborate and admirable history of Navarre, which |^^°^ ^ 
includes lives of * its host of celebrated men \ Room is still Navarre. 
found in the Annals of Learning in the fourteenth century for 
Nicholas Oresme, one of its masters, a political economist, a 
Greek scholar, and a mathematician, and Nicholas Clemangis, 
the theologian ; in the fifteenth, for Peter D'Ailly, bishop of 
Cambray, and John Gcrson, ^ the most Christian Doctor^ and 
in the sixteenth, for Budaeus, the friend and rival of Erasmus 
in the revival of the study of the classical languages. To 
Launoi^s work we owe the most authentic record of Major'^s 
career in Paris, for Major also was deemed one of the chief 
luminaries of Navarre. D'Ailly and Gerson, successively Chan- 
cellors of the University as well as Principals of Navarre, led the 
famous movement for reform within the church which asserted 
itself in the beginning of the fifteenth century, at the Councils of 
Pisa (1409) and Constance (1414-18). They were the principal 
authors or authorities in favour of the supremacy of General 
Councils over the Pope, the early champions of the Gallican 
Liberties, who after so many gallant struggles were only 
finally defeated by the Ultramontane doctrine of Papal Infalli- 
bility established as de jide by the Vatican Council of the 
present century. Colleges like nations have traditions, and 
the connection of Major with Navarre, where Gerson'^s name still 
exercised great influence, favoured his adoption of the Gallican 
position that the Pope was not the ultimate authority when 
opposed by a General Council. His views on this point, 
carried to lengths from which Major himself would have 
shrunk, by his pupils Knox and Buchanan, form a link in the 
chain of opinion which produced the Reformation. 


A special opportunity arose during Major^s residence in Paris 
of reaiiserting GalUcan doctrines. 

The policy which led Charles viii. and Louis xii. to claim 
parts of Italy, and to assert their claim by the sword, brought 
the latter monarch into conflict with Julius ii., the strenuous 
maintainer of the temporal rights and spiritual supremacy of 
the Papacy. In the course of this conflict Louis tried the 
bold stroke of calling a Council to overrule the Pope. The 
Council of Pisa met in 1511, was adjourned to Milan and 
finally to Lyons, but owing to the failure of Louisas Italian 
campaign accomplished nothing. During its sittings Cardinal 
Thomas Cajetan published a book on the papal side, impugn- 
wMtfoiduSn ^"8 ^^ authority, and Louis applied to the University of 
doctrines. Paris to answer it. The task was intrusted to James Almain, 
a young Master of Arts and member of the College of 
Navarre, one of Major^s pupils. This Liber de Auctoritate 
Ecclesice et CancUiorum adversum Thcmiam Caietarmm has 
been sometimes credited to Major as joint author, but 
Launoi, our best authority, ignores this. Almain probably 
sought his advice, and Major we may be certain was present 
in the crowded auditory of approving theologians when it 
was publicly read at Paris. The treatise of Almain supported 
views quite in accordance with the teaching of his master. 
In the later edition of the works of Gerson^ there is inserted 
an appendix ^Doctoris Majoris Doctoris Parisiensis Disputa- 
tiones de Statu ac Potestate Ecclesiae excerptas ad verbum ex 
ejusdem Commentariis in Librum Quartum Sententiarum \ 
This appendix contains arguments proving (1) That the polity 
of the church is monarchical or constitutional (as we now say) 
as distinguished from absolute ; (2) That Bishops and Parish 
Priests were both directly instituted by Christ (a step in the 
direction of Presbyterian equality) ; and (3) That the Pope 
has not the power of the sword over Christian Kings and 

* Opera Gersoni; Anlw. ed. 1760, vol. ii. pp. 1121, 1 131, 1145. 


Princes; also Disputations on the Authority of the Council 
over the Pope and of the Power of the Pope in Temporal 
Affairs. These latter disputations consist of extracts from 
Major'^s later work, ^ A Commentary on Matthew^ and show 
that he gave a wide scope to the idea of a commentary in order 
to introduce opinions he desired to promulgate. 

In 1505-6 Major graduated as Doctor in Theology, and as 1505.6 Major 
by a rule of the College of Navarre Professors in Arts were Theoi<^? 
obliged to leave off lecturing in that Faculty after attaining 
this degree, then or soon after he transferred his services 
to the Theological Faculty, and, still living in Montaigu, 
commenced to lecture in the Sorbonne on the Sentences of 
Peter Lombard, the recognised text- book of the theological 

The Sorbonne had different traditions from Navarre, and The Sorbonn 
was the head and centre of Roman orthodoxy. It is 
perhaps not altogether fanciful to see in the balancing 
character of his mind some traces of the influence of 
schools which represented opposite tendencies — Reform and 
Conservatism, Independence and Authority. A more ancient 
foundation of the middle of the thirteenth century, the 
Sorbonne had been instituted and organised by Robert de 
Sorbonne, chaplain of St. Louis, as a college for secular priests 
and the cultivation of theology. Its endowments and its num- 
bers were small. It had only thirty fellows (socii) and com- 
moners {hospites), the former always in orders and bachelors 
and doctors in theology, the latter, bachelors of the same 
faculty. But the small numbers and the strictness of the 
rules as to election of fellows gave the Doctors of the Sor- 
bonne a distinction, and in process of time — especially at epochs 
when doctrinal questions became prominent — ^an authority, 
which led to their being recognised as a necessary constituent 
part of the divinity faculty, and to the gradual suppression 
of theological teaching in other colleges. The influence of 


the Sorbonne, which became as it were a Divinity Hall, was 
exercised against the new light shed upon theology by the 
study of the Scriptures in the original languages and affords a 
warning to those who would exile theology from the Univer- 
sities. Before Major became one of the Doctors they had 
condemned the study of Greek and Hebrew as adverse to 
theology. Shortly after he returned to Scotland they set the 
example (immediately followed by Oxford and Cambridge) of 
burning the works of Luther. This act was the occasion of a 
violent tract by the mild M elanchthon, — * A Defence of Martin 
Luther against the furious decree of the Parisian Theolo- 
gasters\ in which Major came in for a share of the invective. 
* I have seen \ he says, * the commentaries on Peter Lombard 
by John Major, a man, I am told, now the prince of the Paris 
Masters. What waggon-loads of trifles ! What pages he 
fills with dispute whether horsemanship requires a horse, 
whether the sea was salt when God made it, not to speak of 
the many lies he has written about the freedom of the will, 
not only in the teeth of the Scriptures, but of all the school- 
men. If he is a specimen of the Paris Doctors, no wonder 
they are little favourable to Luther.^ ^ 
Sorbonnic To the Sorbonne, besides graver defects of the scholastic 

^^^ ^' theology. Major is said to have owed his singularly cramped 

Latin. A Sorbonnic style was a nickname for the style 
opposed to the easier and better form of composition which 
the study of the ancient classics and the use of the vulgar 
tongues introduced. YetLatin at best was now an old-fashioned 
garb, worn with grace by scholars like Erasmus, Buchanan, 
Scaliger, but to inferior genius or the ordinary man a rigid 
uniform which constrained the free play of the mind. Every 
one must regret that Major^s like Buchanan'^s history was not 
written, as Bellenden's translation of Boece was, in the dialect 
of their native country, which both knew so well. They might 

^ Melanchthonii Oj>era, i. p. 398. 


possibly have preserved for a time Scottish prose, as Dunbar 
and Douglas preserved Scottish poetry, to the enrichment of 
the future language and literature of Britain. 

Four years after his theological degree an attempt was made 
by his friend Gavin Douglas to recall Major to Scotland ^. In 
1509 a precept passed the Privy Seal at the instance of 
Douglas for his presentation to the office of Treasurer of the 
Chapel Royal, then vacant. But for some reason, probably 
Major^s unwillingness to quit the duties of a teacher, which he 
preferred to those of ecclesiastical office, the project fell 
through. It would appear, however, from a passage in his 
Commentary on the Fourth Book of the Sentences, that Major 
did revisit Scotland in 1515. The passage referred to first Major visits 
appears in the edition of 1519 ^ and in it he states that when ^*'^^"**» '5 
he had been at home four years before and visited the Monastery 
of Melrose, he was told of a frequent custom of the Abbots to 
let their rich pastures with the sheep to tenants on condition 
that they should be liable for loss of the stock — in other words, 
under the contract known in Scottish law as a Bowing Con- 
tract ^ He adds that in answer to repeated inquiries he was 
told this custom had led to the pauperisation of the tenants or 
sheep-masters, who had formerly lived like wealthy patriarchs. 
It is enough, he concludes, to show the iniquity of such con- 
tracts. The passage is curious as evidence how keenly the 
Doctor of Theology still watched the rural pursuits in which 
he had probably spent his boyhood. It is a warning also, in 
the meagreness of our information as to the details of his life, 
against the assumption that he may not have more than once 
returned to Scotland during his Paris residence. It was but 
a short voyage of about a week, with favourable weather, from 

^ Memoir of Gavin Douglas ^ by John Small, Librarian of the University of 
Edinburgh, prefixed to edition of his works. 

' Dist. XV., Qu. 46, fol. clxiii. 

' See Hunter, Landlord and Tenant ^ i. 344. This anomalous form of Lease is 
now confined to dairy farms, and as to its local limits. — Rankine, Leases^ p. 255. 



Calais or Dieppe to the English or Scottish east coast ports, yet 
had it not been for this solitary and casual reference, we should 
not have known that Major ever came back to Scotland till his 
return in 1518, the occasion of which will be noticed presently. 
Theological His first published work on theology was his Commentary on 

Lombard. the ^th Book of Peter the Lombard's Sentences^ issued in 1509. 
This was followed by his Commentary on the First and Second 
Books in 1510, and on the Third in 1517. The popularity of 
these Commentaries was shown by new editions of the Fourth 
Book in 1512, 1516, 1519, and 1521, of the First in 1519 and 
1530, of the Second in 1519 and 1528, and of the Third in 1528. 
Nor was the scholastic and philosophical activity of Major 
confined to the publication of his own works. He edited in 
1505, along with a Spaniard, Magister Ortiz^ the Medulla, or 
Essence of Logic, by Jerome Pardus^ ; in 1510 a short tract of 
Buridan' ; in 1512 the epitome, by Adam Godham*, of the four 
Books of the Sentences, as abridged by Henry Van Oyta^, a 
Viennese doctor of the end of the 14th century ; and in 1617 
he suggested to two of his pupils and superintended the first 
issue of the Reportata Parisiensia of his famous countryman® 
John Duns Scotus. Ockham was the pupil of Duns Scotus. 
Buridan and Godham were pupils of Ockham^. Three cer- 

^ Ortiz, at first an opponent in Paris, afterwards a patron in Spain, of Ignatius 
Loyola, was one of Charles v.'s agents in Rome in the case of Queeen Katharine. 
The biographer of Ignatius states that when Ortiz broke down under the strain 
of the spiritual exercises at Monte Cassino, St. Ignatius, to cheer his friend, 
danced for him the old national dance of the Basques. It cheered him so that 
he was roused from his stupor and finished his exercises. — Stewart Rose, Ignatius 
Loyola^ p. 123. Many of his despatches from Rome, with reference to the 
Divorce, are in the Calendars of State Papers, Rolls Series. He is called by 
Mr. Froude * a bitter Catholic theologian, with the qualities of his profession.' — 
The Divorce^ p. 159. 

' The contents of the Medulla are described by Prantl, iv. p. 246. 

' John Buridan {ob, c, 1358), a voluminous writer on Logic and Metaphysics, 
whose works are described by Prantl, iv. p. 14. 

* See his Life in Diet, of Nat, Biography, 

* A Viennese writer on Theology as well as Logic {ob, 1397). — Prantl, iv. p. 103. 
« History, iv. xvi. p. 207. 7 History, iv. xxi. p. 23a 


tainly, perhaps all, of these writers were Franciscans. Duns 
Scotus was the founder of the school which, taking his name, 
separated itself from the hitherto orthodox scholastic doctrine 
of Thomas Aquinas^ Ockham was the founder of the still M^^*'' *?<^H"* 

^ ... . toNominalisi 

more radical revolt of the Nominalists against the Realists^ — 
and in this Godham' and Buridan^ followed him. It eventually 
led, according to Haureau, to the dissolution of the Scholastic 
Philosophy^. While Major is careful not to identify his own 
opinions with any of these authors, it is impossible to overlook 
the fact that he chose their writings for republication. 

In the singular conclusion of his life of Adam Godham, 
now for the first time reprinted®. Major assigns the first place 
amongst the learned men of Britain to the Venerable Bede, 
the second to Alexander Hales, but he adds Ockham and 
Godham would have contended for it were not Hales so much 
their senior. These two he pronounces equal, and contrasts 
iliem in a passage which is a sample of his style and criticism 

^ Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus were both Realists. But Duns set the 
first great example of a breach in the unity of scholastic doctrine, so that 
Schwegler {History of Philosophy^ Hutchison Stirling*s translation, p. 145), even 
says : ' The whole foundation of scholastic metaphysics was abandoned the 
moment Duns Scotus transferred the problem of Theology to the practical sphere. 
With the separation of theory and practice, and still more with the separation in 
Nominalism of thought and thing, philosophy became divided from theology, 
reason from faith.' 

' He is classed by the writer who has most exhaustively examined his writings 
as one of the Modems, or of the school of Scotist Terminists. See Appendix to 
the Life, No. 11. 

' Godham, a somewhat obscure schoolman, whose name was sometimes spelt 
Woodham, is rated higher by Major than by the veterans of philosophy. He 
attended Ockham's lectures at Oxford, and died, 1358, at Norwich, where he was 
a member of the Franciscan Convent, or at Bubwell, near Bury. — Did. of Nat, 
Biography^ s.v. goddam ; Prantl, ii. p. 6. 

* John Buridan, who died shortly after Goddam, was a much more decided 
follower of their common master Ockham, and expressly declared the distinction 
between Metaphysics and Theology to be that the former recognised only what 
coald be proved by reason, while the latter proceeded from certain dogmatic 
principles which it accepted without evidence, and reasoned from them — Prantl, 
iv, p. 15. Buridan is perhaps now chiefly remembered by the fallacy of the 
Asinns Buridani, though the Ass is not to be found in his writings. 

• Phiiosophie Scholastique. • Appendix II. p. 431. 


at their best. * Ockhani and Godham ai'e equals in logic and 
in either kind of philosophy (Ethics and Metaphysics?). Ock- 
ham in commenting on the Sentences is wordy and diffuse, 
Grodham is concise and firm ; if Ockham'^s dialectic (dialogus) 
did not stand in the way, the younger writer would carry off 
the palm. Ockham'*s intellect was sublime and daring, God- 
ham's noble and solid. The one with knitted brow, lowered 
eyebrows, and flashing eyes, as a warrior from youth, disputes 
with gravity. The other, with calm brow and raised eyebrows, 
laughingly pleases every one, and resolves everything (dihiit 
omnia\ so that I prefer neither.' 

This balancing, hesitating, and inconclusive judgment is 
very characteristic of Major's intellect. Though he is positive 
enough in his opinions on individual points, and in resting 
finally on orthodox conclusions, many of his arguments were, 
it would be wrong to say sceptical^, but as little dogmatic as 
was possible in a schoolman. It is also deserving of note that 
he praises ' the Dialogus of Ockham ', for that work is described 
in his History as ^ treating of many things concerning the Pope, 
and the Emperor, laying down nothing definitely, but leaving 
everything to the judgment of his audience'. This too was 
Major's method when he came to deal with ticklish points as 
to the Pope's authority. But if Major supposed he really left 
the question of the Pope's authority where he found it, he 
deceived himself. The tendency of liis thoughts could not be 
concealed, and his doubts and questions were solved and 
answered by the younger generation's acts. 
Major aiiempis '^'^^ exact position of Major amongst the scholastic philoso- 
NominaSsm phers is a subject which would require and repay a separate 
on^NomiiSist ^^f^ouograph. It is beyond the power of the present writer to 


^ Mr. Owen, in his Evenings with the Skeptics, Longmans, i88i, does not 
hesitate to class even the earlier schoolmen, Erigena, Abelard, Aquinas, as semi- 
Sceptics, but the tendency became more distinctly marked in William of Ockham 
and the Nominalists. 


furnish it, and would exceed the limits of this sketch, as well 
as probably exhaust the patience of most of its readers^. Yet 
to leave it altogether untouched — to present any however 
imperfect a portrait of the last of the Scottish School- 
men without some notice of his philosophical standpoint 
would be the play of Hamlet without Hamlet, Fortunately 
Major has himself, in a short passage of the Preface to the 
standard edition of his Commentary on the Fourth Book of the 
Sentences, published in 1519, given a clue to the aim of his 
philosophy. *1 have yet seen,^ he writes, *none of the 
Nominalists who has carried his work on the Fourth Book of 
the Sentences to the core and the close (ad umhiltcum et calc€m\ 
and this others retort on them as an opprobrium, saying that 
the Nominalists are so occupied with Logic and Philosophy 
that they neglect Theology. And yet there are various sub- 
jects of Theology which presuppose Metaphysics. I will 
attempt therefore to apply the principles of the Nominalists 
to the several Distinctions of the Fourth Book of the Sentences, 
and to write one or more questions which the Realists too, if 
they pay attention, can easily understand. Either way. 
Theology, about which I shall specially treat, will be common 
ground.** Here again we find Major taking in the great con- 
troversy which divided the schools since the time of Ockham, 
and some have thought from a much earlier date, the position 
of a mediator, and endeavouring for the sake of Theology to 
reconcile Realism and Nominalism. 

In 1518, having completed his work as lecturer on the 
Master of the Sentences, Major at last accepted the call his own 
country made on him to take part in its higher education. 
It is possible that his friend Gavin Douglas, now Bishop of 
Dunkeld, who revisited France in 1517 to negotiate the Treaty 
of Rouen, had renewed his entreaties with success. On 25th 

' See further on Major^s position as a Logician and Philosopher, Appendix to 
ihe Life, No. ii. p. cxxii. 


June 1618 Major was incorporated ^, before Adam Colquhoun, 
the Rector, as Principal Regent of the College and Paeda- 
gogium of Glasgow, and is described as Canon of the Chapel 
Royal at Stirling and Vicar of Dunlop, endowments no doubt 
bestowed on him to induce him to leave Paris, and which 
prove that he must have taken orders, though he devoted 
himself entirely to the educational side of the ministerial 

In several passages of his writings he defends evidently with 
a personal reference the ecclesiastics who devoted themselves 
to philosophy and education in preference to pastoral duties. 
In one of these he says : * Nor is there a reasonable ground for 
frequenting universities, except in so far as a man learns by 
attending lectures, so that he may return to his flock with 
greater learning. But if he is sufficiently instructed to be able 
to draw doctrine from books only, he can do that both in the 
flock committed to him and on Mount Caucasus, or the Rock 
of Parmenides. He too who continues to read theology in the 
university is equivalent to a preacher ; nay more, he creates 
preachers, which is a greater work than to preach. He is most 
certainly excused if he has no cure of souls, and if he has 
simply received the order of the ministry. ... If such a one, 
too, residing in a university, has a cure in the neighbourhood, 
it is not necessary that he should live in his parish, but it is 
sufficient if he have a good vicar to administer the Sacraments, 
provided he gives the food of life on festival days to his flock^ 
and hears confessions and doubtful cases. For it is hard to 
say to a learned man, accustomed to live and converse with 
learned men, that he ought always to live in a country village. 
Truly it seems sufficient for him to dwell in the nearest town 
or city, and frequently to visit his parishioners, taking care that 
he is not absent on festival days unless for a reasonable cause \^ 

^ Register of Glasgow College. 

« //* QuartttWf Dist. xxiv. Qu. 2, fol. clxvii. 


In 15S2 he is again named in the Glasgow Records as Pro- 
fessor of Theology and Treasurer of the Chapel Royal, as well 
as Vicar of Dunlop, and in 1523 he represented one of the 
Nations as elector {intrans) of the new Rector. On 9th June 
of tlie same year he migrated to St. Andrews, where he was Regent in si. 
incorporated under the titles of Theological Doctor of^"^"^*^'^' 
Paris and Treasurer of the Chapel Royal on the same day as 
Patrick Hamilton, the future martyr, who had studied under 
him iii Glasgow. 

Little record remains of Major^s Glasgow period. He 
doubtless continued, perhaps repeated, his Paris lectures on 
Lc^c and Theology, and we find his name occurring in con- 
nection with the election of Rector and other College business. 
He was present at a congregation in 1522, when the Rector, 
James Stewart, protested against a tax being imposed on the 
University ^. He is styled throughout the entries of the Uni- 
versity Records, where his name occurs, * Principalis Regens 
CoUegii et Paedagogii **, but the principal Regent in the old 
constitution of Glasgow was only the senior Professor, and the 
office of Principal in the modern sense did not then exist. 

The whole of his residence in Glasgow was less than five John Knox o 
years, but it would be memorable, if for no other reason, for Glasgow. 
one of his pupils. John Knox, a Haddington boy, had a 
link with Major, whose strong local feeling we have seen, and 
Major may have been the cause that, instead of going to St. 
Andrews, Knox matriculated at Glasgow in 1522. Unfor- 
tunately the Glasgow period of Knox''s education is the barest 
in material of any part of his life. The future Reformer 
appears to have quitted the University without a degree, and 
his practical intellect led to his commencing life neither as a 
philosopher nor a theologian, but as a church notary ^. His 
mind was of the quality which matures late, but often pro- 

^ Munimenta Universitatis Glasguensis, p. 143. 
- * Memoir of John Knox, Dictionary of National Biography. 



Glasgow in 
lyfajors time. 

Major at St. 



duces the strongest fruit. The only reference he makes to 
Major belongs to a later period, when they were both at St. 
Andrews, in a passage in which he describes his old master as 
^a man whose word was reckoned an oracle in matters of 
religion**, proving that Major retained his previous reputation. 

Glasgow was at the time Major lived in it a small but 
beautiful city, situated on a fine river, not yet deepened by 
art so as to be a channel of commerce. It was chiefly known 
as the See of the great bishopric founded by Kentigem, 
restored by David i. when Prince of Cumberland, and recently 
raised to the dignity of an archbishopric, which embraced the 
south-west and parts of the south of Scotland. The University 
founded in the middle of the previous century had been poorly 
endowed, and did not become celebrated till its reform by 
Andrew Melville after the Reformation. 

The Archbishop during Major^s residence was James Beaton, 
uncle of the more famous Cardinal; and tlie translation of 
James to the See of St. Andrews in 1623 synchronises so well 
with Major'^s removal to the elder and then more distinguished 
University, that we can scarcely err in supposing that the one 
promotion led to the other. 

If Edinburgh or Glasgow was a contrast to Paris, much 
more was St, Andrews. By nature, the site now so venerable 
between the sands at the mouth of the Eden and the rock- 
bound coast at one of the extremities of the little realm of 
Scotland, seemed destined for a fishing village or haven for 
small craft which already in considerable numbers dared the 
stormy sea and brought their native land in contact with the 
civilisation of Europe. But towns did not rank then by size or 
even by wealth. St. Andrews had a threefold dignity in the 
eyes of the pious Catholic and the ecclesiastical scholar. It 
held the relics of the patron Saint of Scotland. It was the 
primatial See. It was the first, and still, notwithstanding 
the foundation of Glasgow and Aberdeen, the principal Uni- 


versity. The Bulls for its foundation had been obtained by 
Bishop Wardlaw in 1411, tutor and friend of James i., who 
confirmed the privileges granted to it in 1432. Bishop 
Kennedy had founded the first College of St. Salvator in 1456, 
and ten years before Major''8 incorporation St. Leonard's, 
or the New College, had been endowed by Archbishop Stewart, 
the bastard of James iv., and Prior John Hepburn. St. Sal- 
vator was instituted as a College for Theology and the Arts, 
for divine worship combined with scholastic exercises. Its 
members were a Provost, who was to be a Master or Doctor 
in Theology, a Licentiate and a Bachelor of the same Faculty, 
four Masters of Arts, and six poor Clerks. 

St. Leonard's was modelled after the college for poor scholars 
at Louvain, itself a copy of Montaigu College. Its foundation 
consisted of a Principal and four Chaplains, two of them 
Regents, and twenty Poor Scholars, instructed in the Gregorian 
chant, and six of them Students of Theology. Its statutes, 
drawn by Prior Hepburn, were of the strictest kind as regards 
discipline, and the richer students, not on the foundation, 
were to be obliged to conform to them. The scholars were to 
be admitted on examination : not older than twenty-one, poor, 
virtuous, versed in the first and second parts of grammar, good 
writers, and good singers. The subjects prescribed for lectures 
were grammar, poetry, and rhetoric, logic, physics, philosophy, 
metaphysics, and one of the books of Solomon. It does not 
appear that Major, when he came to St. Andrews, was at 
first specially attached to either College, and as lectures con- 
tinued in the Paedagogium, which Beaton converted into the 
College of St. Mary in 1627, it is not possible to say where his 
lectures were delivered ; but he continued to teach according to 
the same methods the same subjects as in Paris and Glasgow 
— Logic and Theology. 

In 1523, 1624, and 1525, he was elected one of the Dean's offices held i 
Assessors in the Faculty of Arts. In 1523 and 1625 he Andrews. 


was one of the deputies appointed to visit St. Salvator. In 
15S4 he was one of the Auditors of the Qua?stor^s accounts, 
and also one of the Rector^s Assessors. The last date at which 
his name appears at this period was on S2d January 15S5. It 
re-appears after an interval of nearly six years on 6th November 
1531, when he was again elected one of the Deans, probably of 
the Faculty of Theology. 

During his residence at Glasgow and St. Andrews it appears 
prolmble that Major paid special attention to the philosophical, 
and in particular the logical studies he had relinquished for 
a time in Paris, but now resumed for the sake of his own 
countrymen in the smaller universities of Scotland, which were, 
as they have always been, undermanned, and could not afford 
in that age separate professors even for philosophy and 
divinity. This would account for his Introduction to the 
Dialectic and whole Logic of Aristotle, a new and recent 
edition of his earlier work, digested in twelve books, which was 
issued by Radius Ascensius in Paris, while he was still absent 
in 1521, and the * Eight Hooks of Physics with Natural Philo- 
sophy and Metaphysics,** published in 1526, shortly after his 
return, by Giles Gourmont, famous as a printer of Greek, and 
soon followed by his Logical Questions, issued from the same 
Completion of press in 1528. He finished his Aristotelian studies by the 
Aristotle.*^ issue of a Treatise on the Ethics, published by Radius in 1530. 

He had thus, with a rare completeness, embraced in his 
Lectures and Works almost the whole range of the Aristotelian 
Philosophy. When we remember that an edition of a single 
work of Aristotle, or a single classic author, has been deemed 
sufficient for the labours and the fame of a modem university 
professor, we appreciate the indefatigable industry of Major, 
and we learn how little the nineteenth century can afford to 
despise the sixteenth in the matter of philosophical erudition. 

Nor were these treatises of Major mere editions or com- 
mentaries on Aristotle. He reproduced and reduced in them 


the substance of the thoughts of the great master- to the 
scholastic method. So they were the effort and the fruit of 
independent thought. The scholastic method was then becom- 
ing antiquated, and was alien to the modern spirit. While it 
addressed itself to the highest problems which the human mind 
can attempt to solve or pronounce insoluble — the nature of 
God, the origin of man and the universe, the being and 
working of the mind itself — it descended also to the most 
trivial details, and put the most casuistical questions, which 
the sarcasm of Melanchthon, the satire of Rabelais, and the 
epigram of Buchanan could hardly exaggerate. 

Still Majors work, always acutely critical and argumenta- 
tive, was at least an educational discipline. It awakened and 
stimulated thought, perhaps the greatest service any teacher 
can render to his pupils. It is not surprising that one class of 
tliem learnt to swear by their master as an oracle, and another 
to criticise his method and despise its results. 

In 1525 he returned to Paris and the College of Montaigu, ^lurnsto 
probably to escape the troubles of the times. The earl of 
Angus was then at the head of affairs, and Major^s patron, 
Beaton, had to hide himself in the disguise of a shepherd. 
Major probably also was glad of the opportunity his return His Biblical 
afforded to superintend the publication of his Exposition of the 
Four Evangelists, which was issued from the press of Jodocus 
Badius Ascensius in 1529. His absence saved him from being 
a spectator of, probably an actor in, the trial of Patrick 
Hamilton, one of his Glasgow pupils, who was condemned 
for heresy by an Assembly of Bishops and Theologians at 
St. Andrews, and burnt before the gate of St. Salvator on 
29th January 1528 ; but it was only to see a similar scene in 
the streets of Paris — the martyrdom of Berquin ; for the 
decree of the Sorbonne in 1521 that * flames rather than 
reasoning should be employed against the heresies of Luther ** 
was applied to the Lutherans as well as their works. Amongst 


the doctrines for which Hamilton died were the assertions 
that it was lawful for all men to read the Word of God ; 
that image- worship, and the Invocation of Saints and the 
Virgin, were unlawful ; that masses for the dead were vain ; 
that there was no such place as purgatory ; that sin could be 
purged only by repentance and faith in the blood of Christ 
Jesus. There is no reason to suppose that Major would have 
dissented from the sentence any more than his master Gerson 
had from that against Huss. The Doctors of Louvain, who 
were in close sympathy with the Sorbonne, congratulated 
fajor con- Beaton on having performed a commendable act, and Major^s 
!mheran dedication of his Commentanj on St. Matthew refers to the 

"*^*^* news recently received that Beaton had, * not without the ill- 

will of many, manfully removed a person of noble birth, but an 
unhappy follower of the Lutheran heresy'. The allusion is 
an euphemistic reference to the martyrdom of Hamilton. 

To St. Andrews during Major'^s residence came a Highland 
youth, attracted by his fame, destined by nature for learning, 
already with some of the experience of a man. Greorge\ the 
son of Thomas Buchanan of the Moss, in Lennox, early lost his 
father, and was sent when fourteen, at the cost of his maternal 
uncle, James Heriot of Traprain, in East Lothian, to Paris ; 
but after two years'* study of the Latin classics the poverty of 
his mother brought him home, and he served with the Frencli 
troops of Albany at the siege of Werk. The hardship of a 
winter camp led to an illness, and, after recruiting his health 
at home, he entered the Paedagogium at St. Andrews in 1524. 
On 3d Octol)er 1525 he took his degree of Bachelor of Arts. 
Major having gone to Paris in that year, Buchanan either 
accompanied or followed him, but entered, not as might have 
been expected the College of Montaigu, but the Scots College 
de Grisy, in which he was admitted ad eundem as Bachelor on 

^ A more favourable view of the character and conduct of George Buchanan 
will be found in Mr. P. Hume Brown's Memoir^ 1890. 


10th October 1627. There is no proof that Major was, as has 
been alleged, at the expense of his maintenance, but probably 
he befriended a young man connected with East Lothian as 
well as St. Andrews, whose talents foretold his future eminence. 
In 1529 Buchanan was elected Procurator of the German 
Nation, the highest honour then open to the Scottish student, 
having lost a prior election only through the superior claim of 
his blind coimtryman, Robert Wauchope, afterwards Bishop of 
Armagh. Buchanan has left two remarks on Major, in them- 
selves not unfair, but very unjust if taken as a summary of his 
whole teaching. * John Major at that time taught Dialectic, George 
or rather Sophistic \ he says, * in extreme old age at St. ^^ ^ 
Andrews'; and in the well-known epigram which associates 
their names, the pupil again expresses his repugnance for the 
scliolastic triflings the younger generation found in works 
their elders deemed the glory of the University of Paris : — 

Cum scateat nugis solo cognomine Major^ 

Nee sit in immenso pagina sana libro, 
Non mirum titulis quod se veracibus oruat ; 

Nee semper mendax fingere Creta solet. 

When he proclaims himself thus clearly 
As ' Major ' by cognomen merely. 
Since trifles through the book abound. 
And scarce a page of sense is found, 
Full credit sure the word acquires. 
For Cretans are not always liars ! 

The sting of tlie epigram is the last, not the first, line, 
which was taken from Major^s description of himself on the 
title-page of more than one of his books K Neither reverence 
nor gratitude were qualities of Buchanan, but the difference 
of age to a large extent accounts for his estimate of Major. 

It would be difficult to imagine a greater contrast than the Contrast be- 

iwccn Nl&ior 

doctor of the Sorbonne trained at the feet of its masters, himself and Buchanai 
recognised as one of them, without poetic imagination, and 

* See Appendices I. and ii., pp. 430, 434, 435, 439. 


with little experience of practical life except as seen from the 
cloister and the chair, and his young pupil already versed in 
the Latin Classics and the thoughts not of Thomas Aquinas 
and Duns Scotus, Peter the Spaniard and Peter the Lombard, 
but of Virgil, Horace, Catullus, and Martial, and who had 
seen not Paris merely but the Camp. A supercilious and 
unmeasured contempt for old-fashioned learning in a youth of 
genius has had examples before and since Buchanan. In truth 
Buchanan learnt more than he was conscious of from Major. 
The study of the sacred texts, the independent view of the 
sources of political authority, and the inclination towards exact 
historical inquiry, were notable points in Major'^s mental atti- 
tude, and can scarcely have failed to influence his students. 
The common opinion that the seeds of the De Jure Regni^ 
and what are sometimes called the republican, but more 
accurately the constitutional, views of Buchanan'^s History were 
derived in part from Major'*s teaching, seems well founded. His 
position marks a stage through which the European mind 
had to pass before it abandoned scholasticism for humanism, 
the Roman for the Reformed doctrines. Absolute for Consti- 
tutional Government. The same Tendency has indeed been 
marked in earlier schoolmen by the historians of philosophy. 
What was special to the case of Major was that this Tendency 
was during his life coeval with the Renaissance Movement 
north of the Alps, and that while the Master resisted, his 
younger and active-minded disciples combined the necessary 
results of the union of the Tendency with the Movement. 

Major's History, a copy of which, printed by Radius Ascensius 
in 1521, must have been in the St. Andrews Library, pro- 
bably was known to the omnivorous student whose elaborate 
work, more than fifty years later ^, was to eclipse its fame. 

The form of this History is unique. It is written in a 
scholastic style, and every now and then breaks out into logical 

* The first eililion of Buchanan's History was published by Alexander 
Arhuthnot at Edinbutgh, 1582. 


arguments. But what has been called in the nineteenth -century 
the critical spirit, in the mode in which it manifested itself in the scholastic fo 
sixteenth century, is to be traced from the first page to the last. *^i^"f ^ 
A renewed zeal for historical study was one of the features History, 
of the time. The age of the Monkish Chronicles and the 
Mediaeval Annals was past. It was no longer possible to write 
history in the style of Matthew Paris and John of Fordun, or 
of Sir John Froissart, or even of Philip de Commines. With 
the advent of the new learning the historical instinct led all 
nations to desire a more exact account of their origin, and a 
more philosophical narrative of their progress, not merely 
stating events in the order of their occurrence, but tracing 
them to their causes. A series of historical works issued 
from the press of Badius about this period, in some of which 
there was more, in others less, of this instinct. The history of 
the kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth was published 
in 1508, the History of Scotland by Hector Boece in 1526, and 
that of Paulus Jovius, De Rehu^ Gestis Francorum et Regum 
Fraficiae in 1536,^ besides some of the best old Chronicles, 
Saxo Grammaticus and Gregory of Tours. It was probably in 
contrast to Geoffrey of Monmouth'*s title to* his History 
^ Britannice Utriu^que regum et principum Origo et Gesta\ 
that Major adopted the title of * Historia Mttjorvt Britannice'', 
The lively and inquisitive Italian, Polydore Vergil, who had 
been sent in 1604 to collect Peter'*s Pence in England, was 
specially attracted to the early annals of Britain, and wrote 
in 1509 to James iv. for information as to the succession of 
the Scottish kings, but the information does not seem to have 
been supplied. Shortly before the death of Gavin Douglas in „ . , 
1523 he met that prelate in London, and resumed his inquiries. Vcr^and 

... Gavin Doug] 

Their conversation is typical of the contest going on in many 
minds between the old traditional and the new critical view of 

^ The Compendium super Francorum Gestis, by Robert Gaguin, published 
in 1497, appears to have been well known to Major, and is written more in his 
spirit than any of the other Histories of his time. 


history. It is interesting too as showing that the Bishop'*s 
education in history had not advanced so far as that of his 
old friend Major the theologian, although there is some reason 
to believe that in theology the opposite was the case, and that 
Douglas leant more than Major towards the doctrines of the 
Reformation. This is a not uncommon phenomenon. The 
critical part of the intellect applies or confines itself to different 
departments in different minds. Douglas, according to Vergil, 
asked him * not to follow the account recently published by a 
certain Scot which treats as a fable the descent of the Scottish 
kings from Gathelus, the son of an Athenian king, and Scota, 
the daughter of Pharaoh \ and furnished him with the usual 
fictitious pedigree to prove it. The Scot was beyond doubt 
Major, whose History had been published two years before. 
Polydore was, like Major, incredulous. * When I reatl the notes 
of Douglas \ he says, * according to the fable I seemed to see 
the bear bring forth her young. Afterwards when we met, 
as we were accustomed, this Gavin asked my opinion \ and 
Polydore then argued, from the silence of the Roman historians, 
that there could have been no Picts or Scots in Britain prior to 
the Roman conquest, and, he adds : ^ This Gavin, no doubt a 
sincere man, did the less dissent from this sentence, in that it 
plainly appeared to him that reason and truth herein well 
agreed, so easily is truth discovered from feigned phrases \ 
The death of Douglas by the plague prevented Polydore from 
further enjoying the benefit of his conversation. 

The History of Major was entitled Hlstoria M(yoris Biitan- 
niae tarn Angliae quam Scotiae per Johunnem Mqjorem ncUione 
quidem Scotum prqfessione mitem theohgum. 
TiUe of Major's * Major Britain'' was no doubt, in its first intention, meant 

History. ..... . 

to distinguish Britain from Brittany, the lesser land of the 
Britons, just as Scotland, ^Scotia Minor \ in mediaeval Latin, 
prior to the eleventh century, was distinguished from Ireland, 
the * Scotia Major ^ of the Scottisli race. But it signified the 


author''s presage of the greatness of the small island whose 
annals he relates. There is possibly too a play on his own 
name. It was Major'*s History of Major Britain. It was also 
an early essay to find a name that, without offence to the pride 
of either nation, should comprise Scotland as well as England, 
for which James i, afterwards hit upon the happy name of 
Great Britain, leaving to the nineteenth century to give Greater 
Britain a more fit application to the dependencies and colonies 
which the natives of the little island have conquered or acquired 
beyond the Atlantic or in the islands of the Antipodes. 

Major dedicated his work in a short preface to his young Major's dedic 

, lion to James 

sovereign James v., whom he describes as celebrated for his 
noble disposition and high birth, derived from both kingdoms, 
alluding to his descent as grandson of Henry vii. as well as heir 
of James rv. The preface is a defence against the charges of a 
possible critic that he had deviated from the practice of his- 
torians in dedicating his history ; that a theologian should not 
venture to write history ; and that he has used the style of a 
theologian rather than an historian. To the first he answers 
that he has read no dedication by Sallust or Livy, either 
because thev wrote none, or because their dedications are lost. 
Sallust, indeed, had no reason for a dedication, as he wrote 
before the Romans had kings (emperors). Livy, perhaps, had 
no wish to dedicate, deeming it more glorious to offer the fruits 
of his labours to the Gods and posterity rather than to any 
mortal. But nearly all the poets, even when they wrote 
history, dedicated their works. Valerius Maximus invoked 
Caesar when about to describe the annals not only of his own 
but of other nations. St. Jerome, St. Augustine, our own 
Venerable Bede, as well as other ecclesiastical writers, used 
dedications. He has followed their example, but, to avoid 
suspicion of flattery, has lejd the history of recent times to 
others. The charge that a theologian should not write history 
he denies. It is the province of a theologian to define matters 


of faith, religion, and morals, so he cannot be deemed to 
depart from it when he not only states acts and their authors, 
but also determines whether they had been rightly or wrongly 
done. Besides, it would be his aim that the reader of his 
History should learn not only what had been done, but also 
how men ought to act, from the experience of so many cen- 
turies. For his style, it might have been more polished, but 
he doubted if more suitable to his subject. If the names of 
Scottish places and persons were expressed in Latin words the 
natives would scarcely recognise them. We see from this 
curious observation how narrowly Major missed writing in the 
vernacular. Perhaps, could he have printed his book at home, 
he might have done so. But, no doubt, he also desired to be 
read by the learned throughout Europe. 

It has always been the aim of our kings, he concludes, to 
act greatly rather than speak elegantly, so it should be the 
aim of all students to think rightly and understand the matter 
in hand sharply rather than to write elegantly or rhetorically. 
Of this the two Scots, John Scotus Erigena ^ and Duns Scotus, 
Bede, Alcuin, and many others are examples. It is his hope 
that the king may read happily the history of his race 
dedicated to his felicity and live to the age of Nestor. 
Scheme of the The history which follows narrates in six books in a succinct 

style the annals of England and Scotland from the earliest 
times to the marriages of Henry vii.'s daughters, Margaret to 
James iv. of Scotland, and Mary to Louis xii. of France, and 
after his death to the Duke of Suffolk. The part relating to 
Scotland is naturally fuller, but the combination of the two 
histories was done of set purpose to aid the view which Major 
insists on that the two crowns should be united by marriage. 
With the same object, Major treats the English more favourably 

* Although the epithet * Erigena ' is now admitted to be of later date, the current 
and better opinion seems to be that John Scotus was an Irishman, but Duns 
Scotus was almost certainly, as Major thought, a Scotchman. — R. Lane Poole, 
History of Medurval Thought^ p. 55 n 2. 


than our earlier historians. He is the first Scottish advocate Major an ad 
for the Union. * I state this proposition,"* he says : * The Scots Union.*^ 
ought to prefer no king to the English in the marriage of a 
female heir, and I am of the same opinion as to the English 
in a similar case. By this way only two hostile kingdoms 
flourishing in the same island, of which neither can subdue the 
other, would be united under one king, and if it is said the 
Scots would lose their name and kingdom, so would the 
English, for the king of both would be called king of Britain. 
Nor would the Scots have any reason to fear the taxes of an 
English king. I venture to answer for the English king that 
he would allow them their liberties as the king of Castile 
allows the people of Aragon. Besides, in case it is for the 
well-being of the republic, it is proper that taxes should be paid 
to the king according to the necessity of the occasion. The The nobility 
Scottish nobles, as I think, are unwilling to have one king with ingthe Unio 
power over the whole island, and the English nobles are of like 
mind, because the nobility would not dare to go against such 
a king. Yet a single monarch would be useful even to the 
nobles. They would flourish by justice; no one would dare 
use force against another. Their homes and families would 
be more permanent. No foreign king would invade their 
country, and if they were injured, they would be able without 
fear to attack others.** 

Such opinions were in advance of his age. It is singular 
how a Scotsman bred in France should have adopted them. 
Experience must have convinced him that the prosperity of 
his country pointed to an English union rather than to a 
French alliance. 

Another point on which the opinions of Major are un- Major on 
expectedly liberal, at least to those who have not followed state, 
with minute attention the course of medieval thought, is as to 
the relation between Church and State. In this connection 
he repeats the sentiments to which he had given utterance in 


commenting on the Gospel of Matthew, and which he may 
have learned from the writings of Ockham, D'^Ailly, and 
Gerson. Referring to the excommunication of Alexander ii. 
of Scotland by the Papal Legate on the ground that Alexander 
had sided with the English barons against King John, he 
says: 'Perhaps fearing more than was reasonable ecclesias- 
tical censures, he restored Carlisle to the English king. If 
he had a just title to Carlisle, he had no reason to fear the 
papal excommunication. Various of his predecessors had held 
it, nor do I see how he had lost the right, and whatever might 
be the fact as to that, he could have appealed from the legate 
to his superior. But perhaps you will object that even the 
unjust sentence of a pastor (i.e, an ecclesiastic in charge of a 
flock and with power to excommunicate) is to be feared. To 
which we will easily answer. If it is unjust, it is as if null, and 
there is no reason to fear it. For an unjust excommunication, 
is no more an excommunication than a dead man is a man. 
Not only in Britain, but in many other places, men too lightly 
entangle themselves with ecclesiastical censures. No one,, 
unless he commits mortal sin, ought to be excommunicated 
either by law or man, and for contumacy alone excommunica- 
tion is to be pronounced by man. If he will not hear the 
church, saith the Scripture (veritas\ let him be as a heathen 
and publican. Tlierefore by the opposite argument, if he will 
hear the church, why should he be ejected from the company 
of believers ? It follows that we think many persons excom- 
municated are in grace.' This is bold language for an ecclesi- 
astic of the Roman Church, but by allowing excommunication 
for contumacy. Major leaves a loophole through which his 
conscience crept when he approved the burning of Patrick 
Hamilton. This explains too how he and men of like views ^ 

^ Jourdain has an interesting and instructive Essay on this subject, dealing 
with writers of an earlier date {Excursiotts Historiques^ 1888, p. 524) : * M^moire 
sur La Royaute Fran9aise et le Droit Populaire d*apr^s les Ecrivains du Moyen . 


were tolerated by the Roman Church, which has always School opia 

•^ . . . / aaioChurcl 

allowed considerable latitude to men of learning and ability and State. 
who have conceded to the Church the final . sentence — the last 
word, whether of temporal or eternal condemnation. 

When he deals with John'^s abdication and payment of the 
ransom for his crown to the Pope, Major raises the difficulty 
whether a king can give the right of his kingdom or fixed pay- 
ments out of it to any other person. If he gave the right of 
the kingdom to the Turk or any other not the true heir, the 
gift would be plainly null. The proof is : * The king has the 
right of the kingdom from a free people, nor can he grant that 
right to any one contrary to the will of the people\ 

A king cannot be said to act rightly who, without the 
counsel of his nobles, declares that his revenues are to be 
given away to any one. The proof is : * Sucli a tax, without 
express or tacit consent, burdens the people, and such a tax the 
people are not bound to pay. Further, the contest between 
the king and the Churcli of England was as to goods taken 
from that particular church, and specially from the Cistercians. 
It is clear, restitution ought to have been made to the par- 
ticular church. It was idle in John to suppose that because 
he gave a quota to Rome, he was absolved from restitution to 
the Church from which he had taken the property.^ Here the 
doctrine of restitution, a favourite and sound doctrine of the 
manuals of the Confessional, is very skilfully turned against both 
John and the Pope. It is, after all, robbing Paul although you 
pay Peter ^ He concludes with allowing that if John and the 
English people agreed to give an annual payment to the Pope 
it would be otherwise, for it does not concern the king"'s purse, 
but is given by the people itself. These are almost the con- 
stitutional principles embodied by the barons in the charters 
of the Liberties of England, but which Buchanan generally 

^ The proverb is more often cited in the reverse form, but is known in both 


Constitutional gets the credit of introducing into Scotland. He may have 

derived them in part at least from his old master. When we 
read Barbour'^s Bruce or Blind Harry'^s Wallace^ we trace their 
parentage to a still earlier date. They were the fruit of the 
War of Independence. Perhaps they may be traced to a more 
distant epoch, to the resistance which Galgacus and our remote 
Celtic forefathers made to the Roman legions. Major tells an 
anecdote which shows they existed before the War of Inde- 
pendence in the breast of the patriot leader. Wallace, he says, 
always had in his mouth lines his tutor had taught him : — 

' Dico tibi verum, Libertas optima rerum ; 
Nuuquam servili sub nexu vivite, All.' 

With equal distinctness Major, in treating of the succession 
of Bruce, states he does not place Bruce^s right on the ground 
of priority of descent, but because Baliol, by surrendering the 
crown to Edward, forfeited his right. * A free people gives the 
strength to the first king whose power depends on the whole 
people. Fergus the first had no other right. I say the same 
of the kings of Judea ordained by God.'' He further argues 
tliat the people can depose for his demerits a king and his 
successors, founding on the precedents of the Roman kingship 
which was abolished, and the Carlovingian dynasty which was 
founded when Pepin by the will of the people deposed the 
Merovingian line. 
Government The proof from the establishment of the Roman republic 

wiUof^ie" ^ * shows another source from which views in favour of the 
people. foundation of government on the will of the people were 

drawn by scholars in the time of Major. The Greek and 
Roman classics, above all Livy, recently translated into French, 
and soon after into Scotch by Bellenden, presented the noble 
spectacle of a free republic. It is noticeable that Major 
frequently reflects on the tyranny and want of patriotism of 
the nobles. Wallace is his hero rather than Bruce, and in a 
fine passage which reminds us of the poem of Dante in the 


Convito ^5 he argues that * there is no true nobility but virtue 
and its acts. Vulgar nobility is nothing but a windy mode of 
talk/ He laughs at his countrymen, who think themselves all 
cousins of the king, and says he used to argue with them jocu- 
larly in this way : * They would grant no one was noble unless 
both his parents were noble. If so, was Adam noble or not ? 
If he was not, they denied the premiss. If he was, then so 
were all his children. So it follows either that all men are 
noble or none."* It is evident that we are listening to a repre- 
sentative of the Commons, to a forerunner of Robert Bums in 
the strangely different garb of a medieval philosopher. A 
similar or cognate argument was expressed in the popular 
rhyme of the English peasants — 

' When Adam delved, and Eve span. 
Who was then the gentleman ? ' 

Like all clear-sighted men at this period, Major saw the Abus s in the 
urgency of reform in the Church. He approves the saying dcmned. 
of James i., that David i. had injured the Crown by lavish 
grants to Bishops and Monks. He expresses his regret at the 
poverty of parishes and parisli churches in Scotland in com- 
parison with England, at the gross abuses of pluralities and 
non-residence, and his surprise that the Scottish prelates had 
not earlier applied some part of their great revenues to found- 
ing Universities. He especially condemns the wealthy abbots 
who live in the court more than in the cloister, who think they 
do well when they enrich their convent by oppressing the poor 
labourers of the ground. The true end of religion is to subdue 
the lusts of the flesh, and wealth is adverse to this end. When 

1 ' It follows then from this, 
That all are high or base, 
Or that in time there never was 
Beginning to our race.' 

• • • • 

Where virtue is there is 
A nobleman, although 
Not where there is a nobleman 
Must virtue be also.' 
The ConvilOy Fourth Book (Miss E. Price Sayers' translation). 


he describes Bishop Kennedy"'s character he blames him for 
holding the Priory of Pittenweem in commendam along with so 
great a See as St. Andrews, and for the cost of his sumptuous 
tomb ; and he raises the question whether a bishop has more 
than a qualified right of property in the revenue he derives 
from the church. In the passages of his History in which 
he attacks the oppression of the nobles and the corruption 
of the ecclesiastical dignitaries we recall the language of the 
Satires of Henryson, Dunbar, and Lindsay \ Against the 
abuses of ill-regulated monasteries Major more than once 
inveighs^, and though he maintains the binding nature of 
vows, he admits the difficulty of the question. On the 
critical point of the privilege of ecclesiastics to be exempt 
from the judgment of lay courts, while he takes, as might be 
expected, the side of the Church in discussing the struggle 
between Henry ii. and Becket, he allows this was not by 
divine right, and might be otherwise in special circumstances. 
He even goes so far as to condemn the multiplication of 
miracles, and remarks (though earlier as well as later examples 
of the same train of reasoning may be found) that miracles 
do not prove holiness, for John the Baptist, the holiest child 
bom of woman, wrought none, and that a vow of chastity 
might be a vow of the foolish virgins if it hurt the state. 

With regard to the facts of his History Major shows a won- 
derfully sound historical instinct, distinguishing truth from the 
fables with which the Scottish annals were then encrusted. 
His work is a sketch, and much is omitted ; but the student 
who reads it will have little to unlearn. In this respect he is 
far superior to his contemporary Boece, and even to Buchanan, 
who copied Boece in the earlier part of Scottisli history. 

^ With these passages in the History may be compared his denunciation in his 
Commentary on St. Matthew of * the grasping abbots who make things hard for 
the husbandmen *, fol. Ixxiv. verso 2. 

2 Compare Commentary on St. Matthew, fol. Ixxiii. verso 2: ' If I were as rich 
as Midas, I would rather throw my money into the Seine than found a religious 
house where men and women take their meals together.* 


He discards at once the foundation fable of the Scottish Major s criti- 

cism of early 

kings being descended from Scota the daughter of Pharaoh, Scottish 
and takes the firm ground of Bede as to their Irish origin, and 
inclines to the further opinion, which may be true though 
not proved, that they came from Spain to Ireland. The 
Picts, following Bede and their own traditions, he states, came 
also by way of Ireland from Scythia, and he ascribes probably 
rightly their name to the practice of painting their bodies. 
Although he did not succeed in detecting the insertion of 
forty kings between Fergus i. Mac Fercha and Fergus ii. Mac 
Ere, he shows his distrust of it by reckoning only fifteen where 
Fordun and Wyntoun had made forty. Buchanan, who ought 
to have knoi^Ti better, has compiled a list still longer and 
less intelligible, which corrupted Scottish History at the foun- 
tainhead till the sources were purified first by Father Innes, 
and more completely in our day by Mr. Skene. It is signifi- 
cant of how far Major was in advance not merely of his own 
but of a later age that Dr. Mackenzie, writing in 1708 his 
memoir of Major, supposes the reduction of the number of the 
kings to be a misprint. 

He argues from tlie life of Ninian as well as Bede that the 
Picts and Britons had occupied Scotland before the Scots 
migrated from Ireland. Bede''s authority and his own know- 
ledge as a Lothian man of the dedication of the Church at 
Whittingham to St. Oswald, enable him to assert the fact of 
the whole of Lothian having been in the time of Bede under 
the Northumbrian kings. He refers to the Commentaries of 
Bede and to Alcuin as proof of the learning of the Northumbrian 
ecclesiastics of the eighth century, though he says they were 
not well versed in the knotty questions of the Schoolmen and 
the Sorbonne. He says boldly that the Church of St. Columba 
had priests and monks but not bishops, in which he is in sub- 
stance right, even though it be held proved that there was an 
order of bishops whose only known function of preeminence 


was the ordination of priests. For how different was such a 
bishop from the lordly diocesan prelates of Major's own time ! 
He gives correctly the date of the union of the Picts and Scots 
in the middle of the ninth century under Kenneth Macalpine, 
and leaves as a doubtful point what is still doubtful — how long 
Abernethy had been the chief seat of the Pictish Church before 
its transfer to St. Andrews. He remarks that the Picts 
held St. Andrew in great honour, from which he jumps to 
the possibly sound conclusion that the Picts held the richer 
and level parts of the country, while the Scots occupied the 
niountains. The Anglo-Saxon period of English history and 
the contemporary history of Scotland from Kenneth Macalpine 
to Malcolm Canmore is very rapidly sketched, and there are 
many errors in the attempt to synchronise the kings. 
Independent After Canmore tlie history is more clear and accurate, and 

view of the 

later history, though the reigns of the English kings are slurred, a distinct 

portrait of each of the Scottish monarchs is presented : Alex- 
ander the Bold (' audax '), who imitated his father in bravery 
and zeal for justice; the good king David; Malcolm, who 
followed the piety of his ancestors ; the long reign of William 
the Lion ; Alexander the Second, who fought with John on 
the side of the English barons, and lost nothing his ancestors 
had gained, observing justice during his whole life; the third 
Alexander, who rivalled his father in the goodness of his reign. 
The War of Independence is told as might be expected by a 
Scottish patriot, and the true characters of Wallace and Bruce 
are defended against the attacks of Caxton's Chronicle ; but 
he rejects as fabulous the visit of Wallace to France, which 
subsequent research has confirmed, on the ground that this 
visit is not mentioned by the French or the Latin Chronicles 
of Scotland. David ii. he characterises, though brave, as 
a weak king, and he blames the want of patriotism which 
led him to name an English prince as his successor. The 
second and third Robert are less distinctly drawn. James i. 


is the finest portrait. It has been copied in all subsequent Characters c 

... - , , I , « , the Jameses. 

histones. * In person short, but stout and robust, of the 
finest intellect but somewhat passionate. Skilled in games, 
he threw the stone and hammer further than any one, and was 
a swift runner. He was a trained musician, and second to none 
in the modulation of his voice. In harp playing he surpassed, 
like another Orpheus, the Irish and Highland Scots, the masters 
of that instrument. All these arts he learned in France and 
England during his long captivity. In Scottish poetry he 
was very skilful, and very many of his works and songs are 
still held by the Scotch in memory as the best of their kind. 
. . . He was not inferior to, perhaps was greater than, Thomas 
Randolph in administering justice. He excelled his father, 
grandfather, and great-grandfather in virtue, nor do I prefer,** 
he concludes, *any of the Stewarts and their predecessors, 
without counting the present boy (James v.), to James i."* 

Of James ii. he says, many gave him the palm amongst 
active kings because he applied all his zeal to war and showed 
himself equal to any knight. * I place," however, * his father 
before him both in intellect and courage, but in temper he 
much resembled his father."* Of James iii. he speaks with less 
praise, giving only the negative encomium, of which his 
countrymen are fond, that tliere have been many worse 
kings both abroad and at home. James iv. was not inferior 
to James ii., as appears from his deeds. * Many of the Scots, 
he remarks, * secretly compare the Stewarts to the horses 
of Mar, which are good in youth but bad in old age ; but I do 
not share this view. The Stewarts liave preserved the Scots in 
good peace, and have held in hand the kingdom left by the 
Bruces undiminished."* There is a boldness in judging and 
distributing praise and blame to the kings very characteristic 
of Major and his countrymen. His judgment is not that of a 
partisan, but of a contemplative historian. Not less interest- 
ing, pointed, clear, and fair are the brief remarks which he 


makes on the character of his countrymen than on those of the 
kings. His foreign residence helped him to gauge their insular 
vanity and intense family pride. But it had not diminished 
his patriotism. Love of his country and desire for its true 
welfare is everywhere conspicuous in his writings. * Our 
native soil attracts us with a secret and inexpressible sweetness 
and does not permit us to forget it\ he wrote to Alexander 
Stewart, the archbishop of St. Andrews, while he was still 
living in Paris, in the dedication of the edition of his Com- 
mentary on the Fourth Book of the Sentences K 

It was during Major'*s second residence in Paris that Francis r. 
— who, like James v., had at first hesitated to prosecute the 
Reformers, and even leant towards them, partly from policy, 
as a means of attacking the Emperor through the German 
Lutherans, and partly from scholarly tastes, which made him 
a patron of the Renaissance — went over to the side of the Old 
Church. He had tried to persuade Erasmus to return to 
France and preside over the new Royal College, in which the 
three ancient classical languages, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, 
were to be taught ; but Erasmus was too prudent. Francis 
had twice saved from the stake Berquin, the translator of 
Erasmus, a man, like Hamilton, of good family, but on a third 
declaration of heretical opinions abandoned him to his fate. 
lie Sorbonne The Doctors of the Sorbonne were bitter enemies of Erasmus, 
irasraus. and, led by Major^s old patron, Noel Beda, now their Syndic, 

they induced the University to condemn his principal works. 
His * Colloquies ** had been so popular, that a Paris printer 
issued 24,000 copies of one edition ; they were even used as a 
text-book in some of the University classes. The Theological 
Faculty had already taken the alarm in 1526, and petitioned 
Parliament to suppress the work, but nothing was done. Two 
years later Beda, in the name of the Theological Faculty, 
applied to the University. The Faculties of Canon Law and 

^ Appendix ii., p. 420. 


Medicine, and the French Nation, sided with the Faculty of 
Theology in condemnation of a book dangerous to youth. 
The German Nation was willing to interdict its use in the 
classes. The Nations of Picardy and Normandy desired to 
write to the author, asking him to correct his errors. The 
Rector embraced the more severe view, which had the balance 
of authority in its favour, and the book was absolutely 

Beda was at this time so powerful in the University, and Changes in 

Francis i 's 

even with the mob of Paris, aptly styled by Michelet the attitude. ' 
false democracy, that he was called the King of Paris. The 
influence of his mother Ann, a fervent Catholic, drew Francis 
in the direction of Rome. The excess of Lutheranism began 
to show itself in tlie Anabaptists. The monarchs of Europe 
began to fear that their autliority might be impugned as well 
as that of the Pope. A comparatively trifling incident is said 
to have finally decided Francis. Some one — no one knew 
who — broke an image of the Virgin and Child on the Sunday 
before Easter 1525, in the Rue des Rosiers in Paris. It was 
at once attributed to the Reformers. 

The University, led by Beda, went in solemn procession, 
preceded by 500 youtlis with candles, to the place of the 
sacrilege, deposited their candles, and returned for a solemn 
expiatory service at the Church of St. Catherine. Two days 
later the King headed a still larger procession, in which the 
Princes of the Blood Royal, the Ambassadors, the High 
Officials of the Court, the Church, and the University, took 
part, and replaced the broken image with one in silver, amidst 
the acclamations of the people. 

A condemnation of the translation of the New Testament, 
prepared by the Faculty of Theology in 1527, was at last 
issued in 1531. Encouraged by this success, and the martyr- 
dom of several less conspicuous Lutherans which followed that 
of Berquin in 1529, Beda ventured on the condemnation of 


Le Mtroir de Tame p^cheresse, a mystical and devotional work 
by the king'*s sister Margaret, Queen of Navarre, and be 
attacked tbe Royal Professors, wbo were now beginning to 
carry out a pet project of Francis — the institution of the new 
College for free instruction in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. 
His zeal had carried him a step too far. For these offences 
he was compelled to make a public apology, was imprisoned 
during the King'*s pleasure, and the uncrowned king, one of 
the many victims to the * vaulting ambition which overleaps 
itself", died a captive at Mont St. Michel. Francis i., like 
Henry viii., was not a religious but a despotic monarch, who 
would brook no rival in Church or State. 
TheSorbonne It is not certain whether Major joined the Doctors of the 
v?ii.*s Divorce. Sorbonne in their sanction given in January 1630 to the divorce 
of Henry viii., contrary to the wishes of the fanatical but 
orthodox Beda. The records of the period have been de- 
stroyed ; but as the opinion was issued during his residence, it 
is probable he concurred in it. While we condemn this act, 
it must be remembered that it was in one aspect a declara- 
tion of the independence of the temporal power against the 
Pope, which would find favour with the Gallican Doctors. 
Francis i., in an angry letter to tlie Parliament of Paris, 
expressly condemned Beda''s proposal to refer the matter to 
the Pope, as trenching on * the liberties of the Gallican Church 
and the independence of the Theological Council, for there 
is no privilege belonging to the realm on which we are more 
firmly determined to insist \ 
Loyola, Calvin, Michelet notes that during these years three men, different 
in every respect except in the greatness of their fame, came to 
Paris to complete their education — Ignatius Loyola, who com- 
menced his education in grammar at Montaigu in 1528, John 
.Calvin, who entered the College of Ste. Barbe in 1523, and 
Francis Rabelais. Rabelais^s college has not been discovered, 
but probably he was in Paris from 1524 to 1630. With none 


of them can Major have had much sympathy ; but it marks the 
pregnant character of the time and place that they produced 
such contrasts as the ascetic militant founder of the S(;>ciety of 
Jesus, whose rule was to surpass even Papal absolutism ; the 
Protestant theologian whose discipline, almost as strict as that 
of the Jesuits, and founded on principles as plausible, once its 
premisses are admitted, was to succeed the Lutheran as the 
latest form of the reformed Church ; and the satirist whose 
coarse and giant laughter, a revulsion from the rules alike of 
the old orders and of the new sects, was to shake the founda- 
tions of the Church in France and become the parent of the 
best and worst in niodem French literature. The irony of 
Erasmus, and the satire of Rabelais, were almost the only 
weapons which could be used by reformers who wished to 
escape the fate of Berquin. Major himself came in for a 
chance stroke of the lash of Rabelais, who places amongst the 
books in the library of St. Victor, * Majoris de Modo faciendi 
boudinos** — * Major on the Art of making Puddings." 

Before finally leaving Paris for Scotland Major completed Majors final 
his labours in Logic by issuing a new edition of the Intro- works. 
duction to Aristotle's Logic in 1527, and a new treatise, 
Quaestiones Logicales, in 1528, and his labours in Philosophy 
by an edition of the Ethics of Aristotle in 1630, and his labours 
in Theology by new editions of his Commentaries on the First, 
Second, and Third Books of the Sentences in 1528-1530. 
But the chief employment of this portion of his life was an 
elaborate Commentary and Harmony of the Four Gospels, which 
he had projected in 1518, when he published his Exposition of His Biblical 
St. Matthew, and now in 1529 published as a complete work. 
Each Gospel has a separate dedicatory letter. St. Matthew is 
dedicated to his chief Scottish patron, James Beaton, Arch- 
bishop of St. Andrews; St. Mark to his old college friend, 
John Bouillache, Curate of St. James in Paris; St. Luke to 
James Dunbar, Archbishop of Glasgow ; and St. John to his 


old pupil, Robert Senalis, now Bishop of Vence. The Doubts 
and Difficulties he had inserted in the earlier edition of the 
Commentary on St. Matthew were not reprinted, but the 
complete work had an appendix of four questions: — 
(1) Whether the Law of Grace is the only true Law ; (2) 
What are the degrees of Catholic Truth ; (3) On the number 
of the Evangelists ; (4) On the site of the Promised Land. 
Dedication to The letter to Beaton explains the object which Major had 
james on. .^ ^.^^ j^ ^j^.^ work. It was to show the Harmony of the 

Gospels with each other and of each in itself, and to preserve 
the tradition of the doctrine of the Roman Church. In carry- 
ing out this intention he has refuted the errors of Theophylact ^, 
the Bulgarian Bishop, and of the Wycliffite, Hussite, and 
Lutheran sects. The errors of others he has noted without 
naming them, ' for Cliristians have been taught not to call a 
brother Racha."* 

He has dedicated it to James Beaton, because he owed to 
him a good part of his studies, alluding doubtless to the offices 
he bad held at Glasgow and St. Andrews, and who became a 
teacher on this subject, was suitable to Beaton'^s name, pro- 
fession, race, education, and conduct (mores), ^ His name 
"Jacob" means a supplanter, as he had been of heresy, 
and " Beaton '*'* signifies a noble herb, an antidote to poison, 
as he had shown himself of the vigorous poison of the 
Lutherans. His profession and office made it his duty to study 
and preach the Gospels, and his race, as that of every illus- 
trious family, to protect the Church. Finally, his conduct in 
removing, not without the envy of many, a noble but unhappy 
follower of the Lutheran heresy.'' The work which follows 
His onhodoxy answers to the design. It is a rigidly orthodox commentary, 
reforming spirit, in whicli Major allows himself much less freedom than in his 

^ Theophylact, Archbishop of Bulgaria (d. 1112) achieved a lasting reputation 
by his Commentaries on the Gospels, the Acts the Epistles of St. Paul, and 
the minor Prophets. — Hardwicke's Church History of the Middle A^es, p. 273. 


writings on the Books of the Sentences, or in his History, or 
even in the Doubts which he had inserted in the earlier 
edition of the Commentary on St. Matthew. If he spares 
others who have held erroneous views, he never hesitates to 
condemn in the strongest language the heretics who had denied 
the doctrine of transubstantiation, — Berengarius, who had been 
condemned by the Council of Vercellae, Wyclif by that of 
Constance, and the Germans of his own time who had revived 
the same heresy, and of whom he did not know whether Oeco- 
lampadius, Zwingle, or Luther was the worst. Transubstantia- 
tion, he vehemently reiterates, is the doctrine of Scripture, of 
the Church, and of the Fathers of the Church. It is also the 
doctrine *of our Theological Faculty of Paris ^. Whoever 
denies it is a foolish heretic.^ He defends the monastic life 
and the celibacy of the clergy against the Lutherans^, but 
admits that there were monasteries and nunneries which 
required reform, and again, as in his History, he mentions with 
approval the case of the English nunnery which, when he was 
pursuing his studies at Cambridge, he had seen transformed 
into a college by the Bishop of Ely '. So too he strongly con- 
demns the bestowal of livings on unworthy priests, or even the 
preference of a less worthy candidate and the pluralities which 
were so common in the Church in his day. * Those deceive 
themselves,^ he says, * who think that the approval even of the 
Supreme Pontiff can reconcile such things to the dictates of 
Conscience*.' He insists on the duty of preaching, especially 
by the prelates of the Church. In a curious passage^ which 
seems to have a personal reference, in commenting on the fact 
that some of Christ's kinsmen did not acknowledge Him, he 
adds ^ just as our relations treat us as mad because we spend 

^ In Joann. caput vi. , fol. cclxxxviii. * In Matth. fol. Ixxii. 

' John Alcock, Bishop of Ely, was the Reformer of the Nunnery of St, 
Radegunde, which he converted into Jesus College, Cambridge. — Mullinger^ 

p. 321- 
* In Matth. fol. Ixxx. ^ In Marc fol. cxvi. 


our whole activity in philosophy and theology. They wish us 
rather to apply ourselves to the law to gain honour and 
wealth, and take offence at all knowledge which is not lucra- 
tive. According to their false estimation we exist for them 
and not for our own salvation and the glory of God, For 
they say, What profit does he bring to us ? Let his library, 
with its books, be burnt. And they think the more sublimely 
any one philosophises, and thereby magnifies the power of 
God, that he is so much the greater fool \'* 

Such have been the recriminations of those who pursue know- 
ledge for its own sake, and of those who follow it for gain, in 
all ages ; but probably at no time was the contrast sharper than 
between the monastic student of the middle ages, who had 
taken the vow of poverty, and the practical man his relative 
or neighbour, who devoted his life to the acquisition of 
wealth. While strenuously maintaining the worship of the 
Saints against the Lutherans and other heretics, he admits 
that there was a possibility of abuse which must be corrected 
by the proper ecclesiastical authorities K The use of Images 
in Churches he altogether approves, and condemns the revival 
by Wyclif and Luther of the heresy of the Greek Church in 
the time of Leo the Iconoclast with regard to them \ These 
examples may suffice to indicate the spirit of the teaching of 
Major as a biblical Commentator. He stands firm in the 
old paths of the Roman and Catholic Church, and treats all 
deviations from its doctrine as pestilent and poisonous heresy. 
But like the best Romanists of his age, he favours reforms 
within the Church and by the Church itself. 

The last of Major's published works was a return to his 
earliest master. The Ethics of Aristotle, with Commentaries 
by himself, were printed at the press of Radius Ascensius in 
1630,* shortly before his return to Scotland. 

^ In Marc. fol. cxvii. ' In Joann. fol. cccxxii. 

' In Joann. fol. cccxiii. * Appendix I., p. 407. 


More interesting even than the subject of the work is the Dedicatkm oi 
Preface which preserves the memory of the relations between mentar)r on 
Major and the great minister of Henry viii. As it contains Aristotle to 
several references to his own life, and is one of the best of 
his numerous dedications, we give a translation of what were 
probably his last published words, for the twenty years he still 
survived were spent in other pursuits than authorship \ 

On the Kalends of June 1630 he wrote to Wolsey the fol- 
lowing dedicatory letter : — 

' To the most Reverend Father and Lord in Christ, Lord 
Thomas Wolsey, Cardinal Presb3rter of the Holy Roman 
Church by the title of St. Cecilia, Archbishop of York, 
Primate of England, and Legate a Latere of the Apostolic 
See, John Major of Haddington, with all observance, greeting. 

' I have often and long determined with myself, and conceived 
in my mind, most bountiful of Prelates, to dedicate to some English 
prince the first fruits of my poor thoughts, such as they are, and 
that for good reasons as I think. The first of them, not to be 
diffuse, is the love of our common coiuitry, which is innate in all 
living creatures; for we, separated only by a small space, are 
enclosed together in one Britain, the most celebrated island in all 
Europe, as in a ship upon a great ocean. My second reason is 
our commimity of religion and of studies. My third and, not to 
multiply words, my last and strongest reason is the desire to avoid 
ingratitude, the least note of which was deemed even by the 
Persians the most odious stain. For I have been received and 
honoured by Englishmen with such frequent hospitality, such 
humane and genial converse, such friendly intercourse, that I 
cannot be longer silent without showing a forgetful mind. Forty ^ 
years ago, if I reckon rightly, when I first left my father's house 
and went through England to Paris, I was received and retained 
with so great courtesy by the English, that during a whole year I 
learned the first rudiments of a good education in arts in the very 
celebrated College of Cambridge, now illustrious by the name of 
Christ. Afterwards, so far as I was permitted by the never-changing 

1 For the original, see Appendix ii., p. 448. 

* It was really thirty-six or thirty-seven, for Major went to Paris in 1493, after, 
as this Preface informs us, a year's residence in England. 


sea (per mare perpetuum), I always made my journeys to and from 
France through England. Besides, what I hold and will always hold 
in fresh and constant memory so long as there is breath in my body, 
it is now the fourth year since your Grace, Most Reverend Legate, 
most bountiful and chief of the ecclesiastical dignitaries of England, 
entertained with the old hospitality of Christians one of my humble 
condition when I was again making my journey to France, and 
invited me to the College of Letters, then recently founded by your 
magnificent beneficence at Oxford^, to do the best I could to 
enlighten it by my presence and teaching, and made me the offer 
of most splendid remuneration. But so great a love possessed me 
for the University of Paris, my mother, and for my fellows in study, 
besides the desire to complete the books which I had already 
begun, that I could not accept the post so freely offered and so 
honourable. Now therefore, that I may not seem altogether for- 
getful of such great benefits, and that I may produce what during 
so many years I have laboured with, I inscribe and dedicate to you, 
who are both so great a Prince in ecclesiastical rank and the 
Maecenas not only of all theologians but of all men of letters, that 
most celebrated work on Ethics, written by Aristotle, the Prince of 
philosophers in the judgment of many, and explained by my own 
commentaries, of however little value these may be. As in the rest 
of his writings he has surpassed others, in this work he seems to 
have surpassed himself, that is the power of human nature. For 
in almost all his opinions he agrees with the Catholic and truest 
Christian faith in all its integrity. He constantly asserts the Free 
Will of man. He declares with gravity that suicide, to avoid the 
sad things of life, is the mark not of a truly brave but of a timid 
spirit He separates honest pleasures which good men may seek 
after from the foul allurements the Turks propose for themselves. 
He places the happiness which man may attain to in the exercise 
of the heroic virtues. And he pursues with admirable judgment 
the examination of the two kinds of life, I mean the active and the 
contemplative, which were figured in the Old Testament by the 
sisters Rachel and Leah, and to us by Martha and Magdalene^. 

^ Christ Church was begun by Wolsey in 1525, but never completed on his 
plan. The Cardinal's College, as it came to be called, was forfeited by Henry 
VIII. , and finished on an inferior scale by the king. — Brewer's Henry viii. 

' Mary, the sister of Martha, supposed by mediaeval commentators to be 
Mary Magdalene. 


For he applies the one to the life of the gods, the other to the 
life of mortals. 

In fine, in so great and manifold a work, if it be read as we 
explain it, you meet scarcely a single opinion imworthy of a Chris- 
tian man. Wherefore, Most Magnificent Father, as you lately 
received me with such humanity and benevolence, we beg you now 
to accept this new birth, which, even if it were, as I wish, much 
better than it is, was long ago your due, and is now at last dedi- 
cated from my heart to your Eminence.' 

Do the Latin superlatives and high-flown style strike us as Time and tone 
antiquated and exaggerated ? Let us recognise qualities which honourable to 
are better than any style, however perfect in taste and propor- ^^^^' 
tion — ^the ardent patriotism, the Academic spirit, the recog- 
nition of the nobility of the morals of the heathen philosopher, 
and the warm gratitude for Wolsey^s kind offices. Let us 
remember too that when Wolsey had offered to place Major 
in the College which he was endowing with more than royal 
munificence, he was at the summit of his power ; but when this 
dedication was written he had fallen so low that in England 
there was scarcely any one *so poor to do him reverence/ 
In October of the previous year he had been prosecuted under 
the Statute of Provisors for accepting the Legatine office, 
which entailed the penalties of Praemunire and placed all he 
possessed at the king'*s mercy. On the 17th of that month he 
had been compelled to surrender the Great Seal ; an inventory 
of all his goods had been taken, and two days later he had 
confessed the charge and submitted himself to the king^s 
pleasure. Though pardoned in February 1530, and restored 
to the Archbishopric, he had been finally deprived of his other 
great benefices, Winchester and St. Albans. He had retired 
to his diocese in failing health and fallen spirits, and at the 
time when Major was writing this dedication he was travelling 
by slow stages from Grantham to Newark, and from Newark 
to Southwell, where he spent Whitsuntide.^ 

* Brewer's Ifeigyt of Henry viii., ii. 413. 


He lived till 29th November 1530, and wrote many piteous 
and unavailing letters to the king to be restored to some 
portion of the property of which he had been stripped, and, 
above all, that the Colleges of Ipswich and Christ Church 
might be spared. They were the darling objects of his bene- 
ficence, and intended to perpetuate his name. ^By Wolsey 
himself,** writes Mr. Brewer, * the loss of power, the forfeiture of 
his estate, and even his exile to York were regarded with indif- 
ference compared with the ruin of his colleges. For recovery 
of the former he made little or no efforL For the preservation 
of his colleges he bestirred himself with ceaseless and untiring 
energy, employing all the little influence he possessed, or 
believed he possessed, with men in power to rescue them from 
the hands of the spoiler.** 

It may also be noted to the credit both of Wolsey and 
Major that Wolsey was a pronounced Thomist, and had even 
acquired the epithet of Thomisticus. Yet this had not hin- 
dered the Cardinal from offering the post of teacher in his 
college to one who like Major inclined to the position of the 
Scotist philosophy, and did not prevent Major, while insisting 
on the Freedom of the Will, the key-note of Duns Scotus^ 
separation from the doctrine of Aquinas, from expressing his 
gratitude and dedicating his work to Wolsey. 

To both the great Minister and the great Schoolman the 
Renaissance had imparted some of its reconciling influences. 
When we consider Major'*s work as a whole we are sensible 
that he was more in place in the Sorbonne than he would 
have been at Christ Church, in a college which retained 
the old subjects and methods of teaching rather than in one 
which aimed at adopting the new learning. Still his con- 
nection with the college ennobled by the name of Christ 
at Cambridge, when a student, and his narrow escape from 
becoming a Professor in the college which received the same 
name at Oxford, and favoured a reform in education, was 
something more than an accident in his life. It shows how 


near he stood, and was deemed by some of his contemporaries 
to stand, to the parting of the ways between the Mediaeval and 
the Modem plans of University education. But when he was 
summoned to his own country as a director of public instruction, 
it was the Mediaeval Scholasticism and not the Modem Human- 
ism that he followed both at Glasgow and St. Andrews. He was 
a Modem only in Logic, and in the restricted and technical sense 
in which that word was used to denote the school which made 
the doctrine of ^ Terms ^ the cardinal part of Logic. He was a 
keen reformer of ecclesiastical abuses, but was not prepared for 
reform either in dogmatic theology ^ or educational methods. 

The Bibliography of Major^s works compiled by the learned Bibliography 

\\\% works 

zeal of Mr. T. Graves Law, Librarian of the Library of the illustrates his 
Writers to the Signet, and the kind aid of the keepers of the ^^fi^P"^' 
principal Libraries where his works are still to be found, is a 
valuable key to the biography of Major, and an interesting 
chapter in the history of the early French press. For it 
was in France that all his works were printed. The art of 
printing, like the other fine arts which were the offspring 
of the Revival of Letters, was a late comer to Northern 
Britain. Chepman and Millar'^s press, in the Southgait of 
Edinburgh, issued its first sheets, the primitiae of Scottish 
printing, in 1508, and its last, so far as known, in June 1510. 
A single sheet of eight small leaves which contains the Com- 
passio becUae Mariae is the solitary record of the names of John 
Story the printer and Carolus Stute the publisher. A copy of 
TTie Buke of the HowlcU^ discovered by Mr. David Laing, in 
the binding of some early Protocol Books, completes the brief 
sum of Scottish printing between 1510 and 1520, one of the 
most active periods of the early press of France and Germany. 
The first work of Thomas Davidson, the next Scottish printer, 
did not appear till 1542, when Major had for twelve years 

^ This is strikingly shown by his dedication- in 1530 of a new edition of his 
Commentary on the First Book of the Sentences to John Mayr (or Major), the 
Suabian called £ck, from his birthplace, the most celebrated champion of the 
Church against Luther. Appendix ii., p. 449. 


ceased publishing. Necessity as well as choice, due to his long 
residence in France, made him select Lyons and Paris as the 
birthplace of his literary children. There was no press in his 
native country which could have issued his voluminous works, 
and few buyers had there been such a press. How different 
was the case in France, whose famous printers vied with each 
other in producing them, and the demand was suflBcient to 
produce editions of the same work by different publishers, and 
frequent revised editions of some by Major himsel£ A rapid 
survey of these will illustrate at once the activity of the French 
press and the popularity of Major. Major seems to have com- 
menced by printing at Paris in 1 503 his first Logical Lectures 
on Exponibiiia^ at the press of John Lambert, and two years 
later he issued his Commentaries on the logical Summulae of 
Peter the Spaniard from the press of Francis Fradin in Lyons. 
In 1508 John De Vingle, another Lyons printer, father of the 
more famous Peter, the Calvinist printer of Geneva, published 
his whole lectures on Logic as a Regent in Arts, which were 
sold in the same town by Stephen Queygnard, and of which 
there was a new edition in 1516. He had also in 1505 issued, 
along with Magister Ortiz, in Paris, the MeduUa DialecHces of 
Jerome Pardus. In 1508 his Commentary on the Fourth Book 
of the Sentences was printed by Philip Pigouchet, and sold by 
Ponset le Preux, and it was republished by Badius Ascensius 
in 1516 ; and in 1516 his lectures in Arts were reprinted in 
Paris by John Grandjon, and sold by Dyonysius Roce. 

Why several of these earlier works were published at Lyons 
has not been clearly ascertained. It may be conjectured that 
as Lyons was as early as Paris ^ a centre of printing \ and 
already possessed forty printers in the fifteenth century, 
although Paris had more than double that number, some 
chance introduction may have led Major to resort to them. 

* Monteil : Histoire des Fran^ais^ iii. p. 305. 

' Brunet, SuppUment par un Bibliophile^ s.v. LYONS, notes that it was then 
the chief market for books, as Frankfort afterwards, and now Leipzig. 


The Lyons printers and publishers employed by Major were His numero 
Francis Fradin (1505), Stephen Queygnard (1508), John De publishers. 
Vingle (1508), Martin Boillon (1516). An edition of the 
Summulae of Peter the Spaniard was published in Venice by 
Lazarus de Soardis in 1506, and another at Caen in 15S0. 
With these exceptions, and after 1516, Paris became his sole 
place of publication, and his principal publishers were John 
Grandjon and Badius Ascensius. But besides these we find 
frequently the following Parisian printers and publishers: 
John Parvus (Petit), who appears to have been a partner of 
Badius : Constantino Lepus, James le Messier, J. Borlier, John 
Lambert, Dyonysius Roce, William Anabat, Giles Gourmont, 
the partner of Petit after the death of Badius, Durand Grerlier, 
and Johannes Frillon. 

Several of the last-named printers, with the exception of 
Petit and Gourmont, were probably pirates, who then as now 
preyed upon the works of celebrated and fashionable authors, 
and may be left in the obscurity they merit. Grandjon and 
Badius deserve a brief record. Of Grandjon little is known John Grand 
except that he was one of the most voluminous publishers or 
bibliopoles of the University of Paris, and that his shop was in 
the world-famed Clos Bruneau, with whose name the Parisian 
students startled the ears of the watch by their cry, * AUez au 
Clos Bruneau, vous trouverez k qui parler\ His sign, which 
hung over his shop, and was engraved as a device on his books, 
was a group of great rushes (magni junci) in a marsh, a pun on 
his name of Grand or Grant Jon. 

Jodocus Badius was a still more celebrated printer, andjodocus 
deserves recognition by Scottish historical students, for to ^^ 
his press we owe the two first printed histories of Scotland, 
that of Hector Boece, as well as that of John Major. Bom 
at Asc, near Brussels (whence his name Ascensius), about 
1462, after finishing his education at Ghent and Brussels, and 
visiting Italy, he settled in Lyons as a lecturer on Latin, but 
derived probably a larger income as corrector of the press for 


Jean Treschel, one of the earliest Lyons printers. Marrying 
the daughter of Treschel, he migrated to Paris about 1498, 
and there began to print on his own account. His press, of 
which a facsimile is given on the title-page of his books, 
was established in the Aedes Ascensianae, and, till his death 
about 1536, was the most prolific in Paris. No less than 400 
volumes, the greater part folios and quartos, issued from it. 
They included the most important Latin classics, on several 
of which he wrote a Commentary, a translation by his own 
hand of Sebastian Brand's Ship of Fools, and many historical, 
philosophical, and theological works. He was employed not 
only by French but also by English and Scottish authors, wlio 
were doubtless attracted to a printer wlio was also a scholar. 
He began to print for Major in 1516, and continued to do so 
down to 1530. His eldest daughter, the wife of Robert 
Stephen or Etienne, became the ancestress of a famous race 
of printers. The second was the wife of Jean Roygny, who 
carried on his father-in-law's press, and the youngest of 
Michael Vascosanus, also a well-known Parisian printer. His 
son Conrad became a Protestant, and retired with his brother- 
in-law Robert Steplien to Geneva. If the epigram of his 
grandson Henry Stephen could be trusted, Radius must have 
had several other children, though his books were his most 
numerous progeny. A sentence which he inscribed on several 
of his volumes may be commended to publisliers : — * Acre 
Meret Radius Laudem Auctorum Arte Legentium,^ which may 
be freely translated : — 

* His authors praised his grateful hearty 
His readers praised his graceful art.' 

In one of Major''s volumes Radius celebrates the author in 
Latin verse ^, and Major frequently records his gratitude for 

* lODOcus Badius Lectori. 
Quartum Maioris, Lector studiose, suprema 

lam tersum lima, perlege, disce, cole. 
Quern si cum reliquis trutina perpenderis eque : 

Pridem alijs maior, se modo maior erit. [From the /n Quartum^ ed. 1 521.] 


the care of the press of Badiu8« One of these passages will 
appeal to the feelings both of the reader and the writer for 
the press. ^ I had no human aid \ he writes, ^ except that of the 
printer, who has laboured with the greatest vigilance that com- 
mas, periods, and other stops should not be left out, although 
the copy was written by various hands ; for my amanuensis 
was sometimes prevented by the lectures which he had to attend, 
and my own handwriting was difficult for others to read\^ 

Another point of contact between Major and the early uiric Gering 
Parisian press deserves mention. Uldericus Guerinck or Ulric p^,^ 
Gering, the French Caxton, or first Parisian printer, was tjj^'"®'^® 
closely associated with the College of Montaigu. During his 
life he was a constant benefactor of its poor students, and by 
his will he left it the half of his goods and the third of the 
debts due to him. With the proceeds of this legacy the 
College bought the farm of Daunet, near the Marne, and 
the Hotel de Vezelay, wliich was situated between Montaigu 
and the College of St. Michel. On the latter site were built 
rooms for the classes of Grammar and Arts soon after 1510, 
the year when Gering died, and in the Chapel of the College a 
portrait of its benefactor was hung with an inscription describ- 
ing him as * Proto-Typographus Parisius 1469\ and recording 
his benefaction. In these class-rooms Major may have lectured, 
and in that chapel he must have frequently worshipped ^. 

In 1531 Major returned from Paris to St. Andrews, and Majorat 
resmned his lectures on Theology. Three years after, the death Provost of 
of Hugh Spens ^ caused a vacancy in the office of Provost of 
St. Salvator, and Major was appointed. The first entry of his 
name in that office after his return is on 4th November 1535, 
when he was again elected an Assessor of the Dean of Faculty 
of Arts. He was annually re-elected, at least till 1538. He was 

* Exordium Libri Quarli Sententiarum. Appendix- li%, p. 439. 
' Annals of Parisian Typography, by Rev. W. Parr Gresswell, 181 5, the 
frontispiece of which is the portrait of Gering. 

' His tomb bears the inscription, 'Obiit anno domini 1534, et 21 die Julii.' 


also one of the Rector's Assessors from 1532 to 1544, with 
which was generally joined the office of Rector's Deputy : the 
Assessor was one of the Council of the Rector, and the Deputy 
his representative when absent. In 1539 he founded, along 
with William Manderston, a chaplaincy or bursary in St. 
Salvator's, and endowed it with the rents of certain houses in 
South Street, St. Andrews. The holder was to celebrate 
masses for the souls of the founders and their relations, and 
of James v., Mary of Guise, and Cardinal Beaton. In 1545 
Peter, the Chaplain of St. Salvator, is mentioned as his 
coadjutor, and Major ceased, from the increasing infirmity of 
age, to hold any of the annual offices of the University, but 
retained the Provostship till his death in 1549 or 1550, when 
he was succeeded by William Cranstoun. 

Buchanan spoke of him as already in extreme old age in 
1524. This appears to us somewhat of an exaggeration, as he 
was only fifty-four. Perhaps, as has been suggested, the ordi- 
nary limits of human life were counted shorter in that age than 
in ours. The date of his birth, now precisely ascertained, 
proves that before his death he exceeded by ten years the 
term of life allotted by the Psalmist. 

Another reason may be suggested for the censorious tone 
of all Buchanan's notices of Major. If we could implicitly 
Tames Laing's cedit the gossiping and malicious Doctor of the Sorbonne, 
aSd^Buchanan. J*"^^ ^^^S^ Major had actually taken part in the con- 
demnation of Buchanan for heresy in 1539, because he 
recommended James v., as it was absurdly put, to eat the 
Paschal Lamb in Lent, or, as the fact may have been, to 
break the fast which the Roman Church enforced during 
that season. ' The king \ says Laing, ^ summoned the Doctors 
of Theology at St. Andrews, amongst whom was John Major, 
a man of the greatest piety and learning in Philosophy as 
well as Theology . . . and when the question was proposed to 
him he answered : " He who says. Most Christian king, that 


you ought to eat the Paschal Lamb wishes you to become a 
Jew, and to live according to the customs of the Jews, who 
deny that Christ has yet come or was bom of the Virgin, For 
the Paschal Lamb is an institution of the ceremonial law, and 
every ceremonial law is dead once Christ has suffered, as the 
apostle clearly says in the fifth chapter of the Galatians.^ ^ ^ 

Though this story bears the marks of being largely apo- 
cryphal, Cardinal Beaton appears certainly to have been the 
instigator of Buchanan's imprisonment, from which he escaped, 
as he tells us in his own Life, while the guards were asleep \ 
When he was again arrested in Portugal, one of the charges 
against him was that he had eaten flesh in Lent % and there 
is nothing improbable in this having formed part of the 
earlier accusation in Scotland, or that Major may have been 
consulted by James v. on the point. If so, Buchanan'^s dislike 
of Major had another ground besides his contempt for the 
logical and sophistical teaching of the Professor. 

That the closing years of Major's life were those of enfeebled 
age is shown by the appointment of a coadjutor, and by the 
fact that he was excused from attending the Provincial Council 
of Edinburgh in July 1549, in whose records he is described 
as Dean of the Faculty of Theology of St. Andrews, on the 
ground that he was ^ annosus, grandaevus, debilis \ ^ Although 
Buchanan exaggerated. Major's productive life ended with his 
second residence in Paris. No later work proceeded from his 
ready pen, and we have scanty notices of what he did in St. 
Andrews as head of St. Salvator. Perhaps the absence of a 
press in Scotland capable of producing such works as his, and 
the occupations of the principal of a College, precluded him 
from further literary labours. But there were other and deeper 
cd.uses. The state of Scotland was not favourable to the calm 

^ Jacobus Langaeus D^ Vt/a^ Moribus atque Gestis Haereticortim nosfri tern 
pons, Paris, 1 58 1. ^ G, Buchanani Vita Sua, ' Ibid, 

■ * Joseph Robertson : EccUsiat Scoticanae Concilia^ p. 82. 


production or revision of philosophical or theological com- 
mentaries. The time for contemplation had passed, the time 
for action had come. Major was not a man of action. To 
one who had finally chosen to abide by the old church and 
yet had fostered some liberal ideas, which he hoped the 
Church would itself realise, the' progress of the Reformation 
and the means adopted to stifle it must have produced thoughts 
best buried in silence. It was too late to change his opinions. 
However liberal in other matters, the Holy Roman Church was 
still to the venerable Doctor of the Sorbonne the exponent of 
sound faith in religion. It is seldom that a man of serious 
thought alters his views after middle age. Had he been 
twenty years younger it might have been different. 
Knox and Two glimpses of Major in his old age are given in the 

Major. ^ , •11 

History of the Reformation by John Knox, which show that 
although he adhered to the old churcli he was willing to hear 
its abuses condemned in the strongest language. In 1534 a 
Friar William Airth preached at Dundee against the abuses 
of cursing and of miracles, and the licentious lives of the 
bishops. John Hepburn, Bishop of Brechin, having called him 
a heretic for uttering such opinions, *the Friar, impatient 
of the injury received, passed to St. Andrews and did com- 
municate the heads of his sermon with Master John Mair, 
whose word then was holden as an oracle in matters of reli- 
gion, and being assured of him that such doctrine might well 
be defended, and that he would defend it, for it contained no 
heresy, there was a day appointed for the said Friar to make 
repetition of the sermon \ Airth accordingly re-delivered it in 
the parish church, and amongst his hearers were Major and 
the other heads of the University. The sermon was on the 
text, * Truth is the strongest of all things \ Knox gives its 
substance, which was certainly bold enough, but as it touched 
chiefly morals and not doctrine it might escape the charge of 
heresy. ' One matter \ says Knox, * was judged harder, for he 


alleged the common law, ^^That the Civil Magistrate might 
correct Churchmen and deprive them of their benefices for 
open vices V 

It shows the critical moment the Reformation had reached Major at 
in Britain that the same Friar, according to Knox, having PubUcSer- 
escaped to England, was cast into prison by Henry viii. for ^^^^ 
defence of the Pope. But Henry, as Buchanan tells us, was 
then intent on his own ends rather than purity of religion, 
' burning men of opposite opinions at the same stake \ 

Major was again present at a still more memorable occasion 
thirteen years later, in 1547, when Knox first preached in 
public at the earnest request of John Rough, Minister of 
St. Andrews, Sir David Lindsay, the poet, and Balnaves, a 
lawyer, one of the first Judges of the Court of Session. His 
text was from the seventh chapter of Daniel, * And another 
King shall rise after them, and he shall be unlike unto the 
first, and he shall subdue three kings, and shall speak great 
words against the Most High, and shall consume the saints of 
the Most High, and think that he may change times and laws, 
and they shall be given into his hands until a time and times 
and dividing of times'*. 

After explaining the prophecy of the fall of the four 
empires — the Babylonian, Persian, Grecian, and Roman, he 
declared that on its destruction rose up that last beast, which 
he declared to be the Roman Church ; but before he began to 
open its corruptions he defined the true kirk as that which 
heard the voice of its own Pastor Christ, and would not listen 
ta strangers. Then, grappling more closely than any preacher 
had yet done with the corruptions of Rome, ^he deciphered 
the lives of the Popes and of all shavelings for the most part, 
and proved their doctrine and laws to be contrary to those of 
Grod the Father and of Christ \ The reigning Pontifl^, we should 
remember, was Alexander vi., * that monster\ to quote the just 
condemnation of Villari, whose enormities made even the 


vices of Sixtus iv. to be forgotten. Enox'*s crucial instance of 
false doctrine was the same as Luther^s — ^Justification by 
works, pilgrimages, pardons, and other sic baggage, instead 
of by faith through the blood of Christ which purgeth from 
all sin/ Treating of the ecclesiastical law he condemned the 
observance of days and abstinence from meats and marriage, 
both of which Christ made free. He reached his climax by 
quoting the claims alleged on behalf of the Pope, as ^ That he 
camiot err, can make wrong of right and right of wrong, and 
can of nothing make somewhat \ Finally, he said, turning 
from the congregation to the seats of honour, *If any here 
(and there were present Master John Mair, the Provost of the 
University, the Sub-prior, and many Canons with some Priors 
of both orders), will say that I have alleged Scripture doctrine 
or history otherwise than it is written, let them come to me 
with sufficient witness, and I, by conference, shall let them see 
not only the original where my testimonies are written, but 
prove that the writers meant as I have spoken.^ Even this 
daring language would apparently have passed unchallenged 
had not Hamilton, the Archbishop-elect, written to Winram, 
the Sub-prior, rebuking him for suffering, it. A conference was 
accordingly held, in which Winram disputed with Knox, but 
left the brunt of the argument to a Friar Arbuckle, for 
Winram himself already inclined to the reformed doctrines, 
which he ultimately adopted. 
Major and To understand the position of Major, the representative of 

Reformation, a former generation brought face to face with the ideas and 
events of the new era, when, in Scotland at least. Reform came 
so quickly as almost to outstrip the Revival of Learning, we 
must recal briefly the course of Scottish affairs from his return 
to St. Andrews till his death. 

St. Andrews was then, more, than at any other time, a 
political and religious centre; and, though himself inactive. 
Major came constantly in contact with the chief actors 


in the tragedies of which Scotland, not yet finally com- 
mitted to the Roman or the Reformed Church, became the 

The young king, James v., whose tutor and playfellow had James v. 
been David Lyndsay of the Mount, whose father had chosen 
Erasmus as preceptor for his bastard half-brother, the Arch- 
bishop of St. Andrews, whose confessor, Seton, had imbibed 
some Reformed doctrines, whose uncle, Henry viii., had plied 
him with flattery and promises, wavered, like Francis i., between 
Rome and the Reformation. He gave signs that he might 
accept the latter. He set on foot a reform of the Cistercians, 
the richest and most corrupt of the older orders of Monks. He 
employed Buchanan to describe the hypocrisy which made 
even more odious the Franciscans, whose poverty and asceticism 
had sometimes l)ecome the cloak of a still more dangerous 
licence, threatening the family, and not merely the cloister, 
with corruption. He had at last succeeded in obtaining a 
portion of the exorbitant revenues of the Bishops for the 
foundation of a College of Justice, one of the most urgently 
needed reforms ; for the Baronial and Ecclesiastical Courts 
rivalled each other in the delay, the cost, and often the denial 
of justice. 

But other influences operating on the unstable mind of 

James prevailed. In 1534 Henry viii.*'s divorce received the 

sanction of Parliament. Whoever, knowing the facts, judged 

it by any but a purely English standard must have begun to 

doubt whether good morals and justice were always on the 

side of the Reformers. One of its consequences was to put an 

end to the project of James**s marriage to Mary Tudor, now 

disinherited. In 1535 he refused to meet his uncle on the 

English side of the Border, and in March of the following 

year a treaty of marriage was made between him and Mary de 

Bourbon, daughter of the Duke of Vendome. In winter he 

went to France, and, displeased with his proposed bride, pre- 




ferred the delicate beauty of Madeleine, the daughter of Francis i. 
The Scotch King was received by the French Court with the 
honours usually paid only to the Dauphin, and the citizens 
of Paris thronged to see him, and receive his largesse as he 
passed through the streets of their beautiful capital. Madeleine 
having died in midsummer 1537, an embassy, with David 
Beaton, Bishop of Mirepoix, at its head, soon negotiated 
another French alliance. The choice fell on Mary, daughter 
of the Duke of Guise, widow of the Duke of Longueville. This 
marriage, celebrated at St. Andrews in June 1538, finally de- 
cided the King in favour of the Roman Church. The family 
of Guise was devoted to it. The uncle and brother of the 
new Queen were Cardinals, and David Beaton secured the 
:ardinai same coveted dignity by promoting the match as Wolsey had 
done by a similar service. Roman ecclesiastics of the worldly 
type have always been promoters of politic marriages in the 
interests of the Church. In 1539, soon after christening the 
young prince, the first short-lived fruit of the marriage, in his 
cathedral, James Beaton died. He had not been a favourite 
with the King, who had even written to the Pope, complaining 
of the aggrandizement of this obscure family, but he succeeded 
in transferring or leaving his wide benefices to his kinsmen. 
His nephew, David, already Abbot of Arbroath, became Arch- 
bishop ; Dury, a cousin, Abbot of Dunfermline ; and Hamilton, 
another of his kin, Abbot of Kilwinning. David Beaton now 
acquired complete ascendancy in the councils of the King. 
He persuaded the clergy to the politic step of making James a 
larger grant out of their revenues. As Archbishop he con- 
vened an assembly of nobles, prelates, and doctors of theology, 
of whom Major was one, at St. Andrews, and pronounced an 
oration against the danger to the Church from heretics who 
professed their opinions openly even in the Court, where they 
had found (he said) too great countenance. Sir George Borth- 
wick, captain of Linlithgow, was condemned in absence for 


denying the authority of the Pope and accepting the heresies of 
England, and his image was burnt in the Market Place of St. 
Andrews ^. Henry viii. made a last attempt to have a personal 
interview with his nephew, but Beaton's influence prevented it. 
A war ensued, in which the defeat of the Scotch under Oliver 
Sinclair at Solway Moss proved fatal to James, who sank under 
the blow, and died at Falkland on 14th December 1542, seven 
days after the birth of Mary Stutirt. In spite of a will pro- 
duced, it was alleged forged by Beaton, appointing him 
Regent, the Estates chose Arran as next heir to the Crown. 
Beaton was for a short time put in ward, but made terms with 
Arran, and became Chancellor in 1543. The failure of Henry ""s 
negotiations for the marriage of the infant Queen to his son 
Edward was followed by Hertford'^s ruthless raid, which revived 
the old hatred of the English throughout Scotland. On 1st 
March 1546 George Wishart was burnt before the gate of the 
Archbishop's castle at St. Andrews. Four other victims of 
humble birth had shortly before been executed at Perth. In Murder of th« 
less than three months, on 28th May, the Cardinal was 
murdered in his own castle by Norman Lesley and a small 
band of young men of good family from Fife, some of whom 
had private wrongs to revenge, but chiefly in retaliation for 
Wishart's death. Shutting themselves up in the castle, where 
they received supplies from England, and were joined by per- 
sons of like mind, amongst whom was John Knox, they were 
closely besieged by the Regent's forces, and compelled to agree 
to terms by which, on receipt of absolution from Rome, they 
were to surrender the castle. In the meantime the siege was 
raised, and the son of Arran given them as a hostage. It was 
during this critical interval that Knox preached the daring 
sermon at which Major was present. In the summer of 1547 the 
absolution arrived, but its terms were equivocal, and the besieged 
refused to accept it. In June, Strozzi, the French Admiral, 

* May 1540. 


arriving with a fleet, the siege was renewed. * Cannons were 
planted, some on the steeple of the Parish Church, some on 
the tower of St. Salvator's, and some in the street that leads 
to the castle/ On 29th July a breach in the south wall 
forced a capitulation. The l)esieged saved their lives, but 
were sent to France as prisoners in the French galleys. The 
death of Henry viii. had prevented the coming of an English 
fleet for their relief. Another raid by Hertford, now the Pro- 
tector Somerset, followed, and the loss by the Scots of the 
battle of Pinkie led to the infant Queen being sent to France 
for safety. Supported by French troops the Scotch were able 
to make head against the English, and recover the castles 
which had been lost, and Scotland was made a party to the 
French peace with England in April 1550. It was probably 
shortly before its conclusion that Major died. 

Who can wonder that amid such scenes an old man who had 
survived his generation held his peace. The flames kindled by 
the Inquisition were being revenged by the dagger of the 
assassin. Almost the last news he lieard was that the Lamp 
of the Lothians, the fine Church of Haddington, at whose 
altars he had worshipped, had been burnt; almost the last 
sight he saw was the flash of cannons on the Castle from the 
tower of St. Salvator. On the one side stood the Church in 
which he had been bom and bred, the Queen Dowager, liia 
patrons the bisliops, and most of his older friends both in 
France and Scotland ; on the other, liis ablest pupils and an 
increasing number of the Scottish people, both gentry and 
burghers. For the one cause fought the French Monarch and 
Court, whose brilhant corruption lie must well have known ; 
for the other, the English king was defying the laws of his 
own realm to carry out his will, while his generals were harry- 
ing, burning, bombarding the Scottish towns in a manner 
which recalled the havoc of the wars of Edward i. 

The Council of Trent just assembled evinced a desire ta 


i"efonii the Church from within, and several Scottish bishops, 
notably Hamilton, the Prelate wlio succeeded Beaton, were 
ready to minimise the Roman doctrine and to remedy the most 
flagrant abuses. To one who could brook a question upon the 
matter, — who did not see, as the Reformers did, in the Pope 
Antichrist, in Rome Babylon, in its doctrine idolatry, in its 
casuistry a root of moral corruption, — still more to one whose 
inveterate habit it was to argue everything from both sides, 
there might well seem room for hesitation, for delay, for 
choosing the older as the safer path. Behind the external 
tumult, to one who was a theologian and philosopher, living 
in the world of thought more than of action, there were 
arrayed on the side of Rome, once its premisses were accepted, 
the forces of Logic and Casuistry, for whicli he had the aff*ec- 
tion the adept feels for the weapons of liis own craft. 

There was also the terror of the stake ; for, after all, most Character 
men are human. Martyrs are amongst the smallest of minori- 
ties in the human race. During the preceding centuries 
persecution liad all but extinguished the doctrines of WyclifFe 
and of Huss. Even after the revival of learning had borne 
its natural fruit in the decay of superstition, it arrested the 
Reformation in Italy and Spain and the greater part of France, 

The life whose course from such materials as exist we have 
followed was not that of a hero or a martyr. But if the 
character and conduct of Major have been rightly interpreted 
they have value of their own not to be overlooked. They 
bring vividly before us the Scottish man of learning as he was 
in this perilous age, when new ideas and a new faith were 
clashing with the old not merely in the field of argument but 
by fire and sword. 

Major the lifelong student, and devoted professor, who j^re- 
ferred, as he himself says, ' to teach rather than to preach ' ; 
fond of his books ; fond of music as the relaxation, and of Major and 
argument as the business, of his life, but fond also of his pupils pared. 


and his country, did what lay within his capacity to improve 
his pupils and inform his countrymen. But it was beyond 
his power to reform his age by the potent words, and un- 
flinching courage, which in spite of grave errors make most 
of his countrymen reverence, and impartial judges of other 
nations respect, the name of John Knox. The deeper, stronger 
work of the Reformer has, as it deserved, lasted longer than 
the work of his master the Schoolman. Even when that part 
of it which is dogmatic has been superseded, that part of it 
which is moral will continue, for it rests near the foundations of 
social and religious life, while that part of it which is national 
will always remain an integral and crucial chapter in Scottish 
History. The philosophy and the theology of Major served 
for his generation only, quickened the thoughts of some of 
his students by attraction, and of others by repulsion, and 
then quietly sank into oblivion. Only a stray passage here 
and there has been brought to light in modem times by the 
diligent investigator of the progress of European thought or 
as an aid to the understanding of his character. 
Character o * Habent sua fata li belli."* The short history which he 

HStory. probably valued least of all his works has had a longer life. 

It was reprinted in the last century by Freebairn, and has 
always been favourably known to students of Scottish History. 
In the hope that it may reach a still wider circle, the History 
is now for the first time translated by Mr. Constable, a task 
rendered difficult from its terse and occasionally abrupt style, 
but accomplished through familiarity with Major's thoughts, 
acquired by a prolonged and patient study of his writings and 
character. An estimate of its chief characteristics has already 
been given in this sketch of the life of the author. It is not 
a history to read for new information. History is a progres- 
sive branch of knowledge. Much more is known now than 
Major knew of our ancient annals. But his work will always 
be interesting as the first History of Scotland written in a 


critical and judicial spirit, and as presenting the view of that 
history in its past course and future tendency taken by a 
scholar of the sixteenth century, who, though he halted in the 
old theology, was so far as history is concerned singularly far- 
sighted and fair. Such qualities are not even yet so common 
amongst historians that we can afford to neglect an early 
example of their exercise. JE, M. 




Note. — I am indebted to Monsieur Chatelain of the Sorbonne for an exact 
copy of the references to Major in the ' Liber Receptoris Nationis Alamanie/ 
which has been preserved for the years 1494 to 1501. Mr. J. Maitland Ander- 
son, the Librarian of the University of St. Andrews, has done a similar service 
by making a careful excerpt of all entries relating to Major in the Records 
of that University. The references to the offices he held in the University of 
Glasgow have been taken from the printed volume of its Munimenta. 

iE. M. 

(I.) University of Paris, 

Archiveft de VUniversiti de Paris, Hegistre 85. 
^ Liber Receptoris Nationis Alamanie.' 

(Anno 1494). — Sequuntur nomiua licentiatorum huius aiini. 

Johannes Maior dyoc. sanct. Andree^ bursa valet 4 sol. 1 lib. 

(Anno 1495). — Inter nomina incipientium huius anni : 

Dns Johannes Mair dioc. see Andree cujus bursa valet 4^^^ sol. i. lib. 
pro jocundo adventu et cappa rectoris. . . . ii. lib. 

(At the end of the year 1498, following upon the accounts of the 
Receiver, i.e. ' Robertus Valterson, dioc. S. Andree,* may be 
seen the signature of the procureur, who thus vouched for the 
Receiver's statement of accounts : — ) 

Ita est, 
Johannes H. Maior. 

AiHio dominice incarnationis 1501 coadunata fuit Germanorum natio 
apud edem divi Mathurini ad decern klas octobres super novi 
receptorU electione, ubi pacatissime ut putatur, deo inspirante, 
delectus fuit magister Johannes Mair gicguocensis diocesis sanct, 
Andre, Qui et receptas et impensas ea serie qua sequitur ut cum- 
([ue executus est. 

The Receiver who succeeded Major, * Mag. Christianus Hennanni,' 
was elected in 1502 'in vigilia Sanct. Mathei.' 

Ao 1506. Lie. (in theol.) Johannes Major, Scotus, de collegio Montano. 
Ordo Lie. 55 (Bibl. Nat ms. No. 1 5440). 

[v. Budinsky : Die Universitat Paris, 1870, p. 91.] 


(2.) Univers^ity of Gloftgow. 

Copy of a letter of Exemption from Taxation granted by James v. 
to the University of Glasgow, confirming prior exemption. 20 May 

This letter is said to have been obtained at their own exi)ense * per 
venerabilem virum Magistrum Jacobum Steward prepositum ecclesie 
collegiate de Dunbertane ac Rectorem Johannem Majorem theologie Munimenta 
professorem thesaurarium capelle regie Striuilingensis vicariumque de ^l^^fj/"*^'*"*^ 
Duulop ac principalem regentem Pedagogij Glasguensis. ' sis, i. p. 47. 

General Congregation of the University, 3d November I0I8. 

Amongst others incorporated by the Rector, Adam Colquhoun, (.'anon /bid. n. p. 133. 
of Glasgow, was ' Egregius vir Magister Johannes Major, doctor Parisien- 
sis ac principalis regens collegii et pedagogii dicte universitatis canonicus- 
que capelle regie ac vicarius de Dunlop.' 

General Congregation (»f the University of Glasgow on 24th May 
1522, under the presidency of James Stewart, Provost of the 
Collegiate Church of Dumbarton, and Rector of the University, 
and John Major being present, who is described as Professor of 
Theology, Treasurer of the Chapel Royal of Stirling, Vicar of 
Dunlop and Principal Regent. 

The Rector explained the privileges of the University with reference /bid. 11. pp. 134, 
to exemption from taxation. On the same day Major was appointed one ^'^' 
of the auditors of the Accounts of the Foundation of David de Caidvow 
for a chaplaincy at the altar of the Virgin in the Cathedral. /bid. p. 143. 

At a General Congregation of the University at the Feast of Saints 
(■rispin and Crispinian, 1522, for the election of a new Rector. 

John Major was one of the three * intrantes ' who continued James Ibid. n. 147. 
Steward in the office. 

Register of the 
Privy Seal, lib. 

Presentation by James v. of Treasurership of Chapel Royal, dated ^' °*^44. 

Ist June 1520, in favour of Mr. Andrew Durie in view of the the Chapel 

resignation of John Mair, Professor of Theology and last Treasurer. Royal—Gram- 

liv. 57-98. 


(3.) University irf St. Andrcics. 

[Maiorift — Mnyr — Maior — Major used interchaiififeably. T.^sually declined 
according to the context, Maiorh, Maiorem, Maiore,] 

[Acta Rfxtorim.] 
J523' June 9. Incorporated. [Entry as in Irving's Buchanan.] 

1523, Jan. 17. Elected one of the deputies to visit St. Salvator's Collej^e. [Entry 

as in Irving's Buchanan.] 

1524. Nov. 7. Ojjp ^^£ ^jjg Auditors of the Acc(»unts of the Quaestor of the Faculty 

of Arts for the year 1528-24. 

1524, Feb. last. Elected one of tlie Rector's Assessors and Deputies. 

1525. Jan. 22. Elected (»ne of the Deputies to visit St. Salvator's College. 

1532, Feb. last. Elected one of the Rector's Assessors and Deputies. 

1533, Jan. 15. Elected one of the Deputies to visit St. Salvator's College. 

1534, Feb. Elected one of the Rector's Assessors and Deputies, 

He was further elected t(» the same posts on the last day of Febru- 
ary ir>.3(J ; April ,S0, 1539 ; March 2, 1539 ; March 1, 154<). 

Elected one of the Rector's Assessors on the last day of February 
1541, 1542 ; one of the Rector's Assessors and Deputies on the last day 
of February 1543 ; and (?) 1544. 

There was elected as one of the Assessors, ' Petruni Capellanj Domus 
1545- Saluatoris Prefectj Coadiutorem.' 

The Aftsefttforff were appointed * ad assistendum eidem domino rectorj 
et eidem consiliendum.' 

The DepHtien were appointed * ad exercendum rectoris oflicium in eius 
absencia. ' 

[Acta Faci?ltatis Ahtiim Univ. St. And.]. 

xsas, Nov. 3. Elected one of the Dean's Assessors [I. M. Canouirum capelle regie 


Mar. 19. Elected one of the Dean's Assessors [I.M. Themurarikis capelle regie 


Nov. 3. Elected one of the Dean's Assessors [I.M. Tli4'murarint< capelle regie 


ir. 4. Named as one of tlie Dean's Assessors [I.M. Thenfitirarittit citpelle regie 



Elected one of the Dean's Assessors [I.M. Themurnrius capelle repe 
Stirlingensis]. Apr. 8. 

Elected one of the Dean's Assessors [I.M. Themurnriuft capelle regie 
Stirlingeiisis]. Nov. 3. 

Elected one of the Dean's Assessors [I.M. only]. >S3'» Nov. 3. 

Elected one of the Dean's Assessors [1. M. vicarius dunloppij successor 

fecti collegij 

Sancti Saluatoris]. 

1533. Nov. 4. 

Elected one 

of the Dean's 







1534. Nov. 3. 





IS3S. Nov. 3. 





1537. Nov. 3. 

Named Jis 




Nov. lO, 





1538, Feb. 1. 

Register op Documents connected with St. Salvator's College. 

'Maister Jhon Mayr' Ls first mentioned as 'Prowest of the College,' 1536, May 3. 
on February 15»36, and other references to him as ' Prepositus Coll. 
Eccles. S. Salvatoris ' occur on the following dates : 1540, Feb. 25 ; 
15,39, Jan. 9; 1542, May 31 ; 1544, Aug. 3, Apr. 29, Apr. 30, May 1, 
May 2; 154^3, Apr. 13, Apr. 18; 15^5, Feb. 15. None of these entries 
throw any light on Major's personal history, with the exception of that 
under Jan. 9, 1.539. This is a charter granted by Major in conjunction 
with William Manderston, founding a chaplaincy or bursary (Capel- 
lania seu Bursa) in S. Sal. College (with power to the Rector and liis 
Assessors to transfer it to St. Mary's College) — the holder to celebrate 
Masses for the souls of the founders and their relations, James v. and 
Mary his Queen, Cardinal Beaton, etc. The endowment consisted mainly 
of annual rents of tenements in South Street, St. Andrews. 

Extracts from the Acta Ri-xtorim L'niv. St. ANDREiE. 

Ci'RiA tenta per venerabilem et egregium virum magistrum alex- 1540, June 15. 
andrum balfowr rectorem de Longcardy vicarium de Kilmany 
almeque vniuersitatis saiicti Andree rectorem In capella beate 
Marie uirginis infra claustrum collegij sancti saluatoris situata 
martis decimoquinto lunij In anno domini Jaj v^. xlmo. 

In causa exactionum recusatoriorum fore declinatoriarum implice 
duplice et triplice venerabilis et egregij virj magistri nostri magistri 
Johanuis maioris prepositj collegij sancti saluatoris et domini Johaunis 


vyiichestre capellaiij pronund.* ante pronunciacionem comparuit prefatus 
venerabilis vir magister Johannes mair et contentus fuit quod pre- 
fatus rector cognosceret in principal! causa domini Johannis vynchestre 
contra eum non obstantibus exactionibus prefatis productis per suuni 
procuratorem a quibus insiluit et admisit prefatum rectorem in Judiceni 
in dicta causa prout t^nore presentis acti admittit et eapropter de con- 
sensu partium prefatus rector decrevit pro cedend. in principali causa 
veneris super sedendo modificiicionem appensa fact, per prefatum domi- 
num Johainiem vynchestre qua prefatum prepositum usque ad discus- 
sionem principalis cause. 

])iK xxvj februarij Anno Domini millesimo quingentesimo 


a6. Ohristi nomine invocato nos Alexander balfour vicarius de Kil- 

many ac rector alme vniuersitatis sanctiandree Judex in causa et 
partibus subscriptis pro tribunali sedentes in quadam causa petitionis 
summarie sane cedule (juerile coram nobis mota et adhuc pendente 
indecisa inter discretum virum dominum Johannem vinschester capel- 
lanum actorem ab vna et venerabilem et egregium virum magistrum 
nostrum magistrum Johannem maiorem sacre theologie professorem 
prefectumtiue ecclesie collegiate sancti saluatoris intra ciuitatem sancti- 
andree reum partibus ab altera judicialiter cognoscentes auditus prius 
partium predictarum petitione reuersione ceterisque Juribus hinc inde 
productis et repetitis per nos visis auditis et intellects remotis et ad 
plenum discussis juxta ea que vidimus audiuimus et cognouimus Juris- 
peritorum comunicato consilio et sequueltio quibus fidem fieri fecimus 
relacionem in eadem solum deum pre oculis habentes eiusc^ue nomine 
sanctissimo priusque inuocato per hanc ncistram sententiam diffinitiuam 
quam ferimus in his scriptis pronunciamus decernimus et declaramus 
prefatum venerabilem virum magistrum nostrum magistrum Johannem 
mair prepositum ecclesie collegiate antedicte a petetis et in petitione 
dictj domini Johannis vinschester capellanj absoluend. fore et absoluj 
debere prout absoluimus per presentes necnon obstan allectis pro parte 
dictj domini Johannis coram nobis et minime probatis prout ex deductis 
coram nobis legitime probatim et compertim extitit dictumque dominum 
Johannem vinschester capellanum in expensis litis factis et fiendis eadem 
nostra sententia diffinitiua condemnantes Ipsarum tamen expensarum 
taxacione nostro judicio in posterum reseruata lecta et in scriptis re- 
dacta fuit hec nostra sententia diffinitiua die sabbato xxvjto februarij Anno 
dominj millesimo quingentesimo xlmo in presentiis Johannis dowglas 
henricj schaw domini Johannis young capellani junioris georgij makke- 
sone cum diuersis aliis. 

* Perhaps contraction for 'pronuntianda.' 


DiK xij mensis Decembris anno domini etc. xlij<* lata erat* presens i54». Dec x; 
seutentia per infrascriptum rectorem in insula beate marie infra 
claustrum sancti saluatoris collegij. 

Cristi nomine inuocato nos Tliomas barklay huius almj vniuersitatis 
sanctiandree ac de neffa Rector Judexque cause et partibus infrascriptis 
pro tribunalj sedentes in quadam causa appellacionis a f^auamine discretj 
virj domini Johannis vinsister capellanj a venerabilj et egregio viro magis- 
tro Johanne mair preposito collegij sancti saluatoris intra ciuitatem 
sanctiandree citati contra et aduersus discretum etiam virum dominum 
thomam Kyneir capellanum [ac ipsum prepositum] appellatos ad nos et 
nostrum auditorium rectoratus interiect ... si in eadem deuolut . . . alias 
judicialiter ventilata cognoscentes auditis prius partium predictarum peti- 
tione respontione allegacionibus processu judicis a quo et ceterisque juribus 
hincinde productis per nos visis intellects et ad plenum discussis juxta ea 
que vidimus audiuimus et concipimus jurisperitorum comunicato consi- 
Ho et sequuto ([uibus fidelem fierj fecimus relacionem in eadem solum 
Deum pre oculis habentes eiusque nomine sanctissimo primitus inuocato 
per banc nostram sententiam diffinitiuam quam ferimus in his scriptis 
pronuntiamus deceniimus et declaramus dictum magistrum Johannem 
Mair prepositum antedictum judicem a quo suas literas citatorias dicto 
domino Johannj appellantj ad citandum dictum dominum thomam coram 
sepefato preposito ad exhibendum et ostendendum quendam assertum 
collacionem vna cum singulis aliis suis juribus si que de capellania vocata 
de balcolmy [habuit] intra dictum collegium fundata ad effectum videndj 
et audiendj huiusmodi collacionem et alia jura cassari annullarj et re- 
tractarj et propter raciones dandas male et iniuste denegasse ipsumque 
Dominum Johannem propterea bonum et juste a prefato preposito ad 
nostrum auditorium appellasse et prouocasse vlteriore que cause prin- 
cipalj cognitionem nobis reseruantes dictumque magistrum Johannem 
prepositum antedictum eadem nostra sententia diflinitiua in expensis 
litis condemnantes ipsarum tamen expensarum taxacione nostro judicio 
in posterum reseruata. 

Major's name, as prepositus collegij Sancti Saluatoris, also occurs in a iS44. Oct 7. 
document regarding the power of the Rector, etc. , dated 7th October 1544. 
Also in an Absolutio of 1541. See Lee's Church Hi«ton/, i. 82, note. 

It also appears in separate charters and writs in the possession of the 
United College under the following dates :— 1532, 1534, 153(5, 1538, M«y 
15, 1542, 1553. In this last Martin Balfour is named as Executor of Mr, 
John Mair, Martin Balfour was Rector of Duninoch, Bacchelaurius in 
sacris litteris et decretis, Officialis S. Andreae principalis in 1542 (Charter 
Great Seal Reg. 11 May 1542, No. 26G2), and is described as 'Professor 
sacrarum literarum * in Charter 25 Sept. 1542, ih. No. 2788. 

^ There are two short contracted words here very faint. The first seems to 
begin with /, and the second with a. The conjectural reading of * presens sen- 
tentia' is due to Professor Mitchell. 



Dr. C\Ri. Prwix, OfsMcMie der Logik, Band iv. Leipzig, 1870. 

The series of Tenwinist Scotists commenced with Nicholas Tinctor^ 
who was followed bv Pardus * and Bricot^. A pupil of Pardus and 
of Brict>t, John Major taught at Paris in the college of Montaigu, 
was an extremely fertile writer, collected numerous scholars round 
him and excitetl them to literary activity. While we must refrain 
from referring to his Commentaries on Peter Lombard and the 
ph}'sical and ethical writings of Aristotle, we find a number of 
smaller or greater works by him on Logic in which he frequently 
treated the same subject in new editions. He edited an edition 
of the Commentarj' of John Dorp * on Buridan ^, to which it is 

• l*ranll, iv. p. 198, 199. Tinctor published a Commentary on the SummuLr 
of Petrus HisiKinus, which is expressly designed on the title-page as * Secundum 
Suhtilissimi Jiktoris/ohanms Scott viam compilcUuniy and a later work, in which 
he is doscrilxnl as a follower of Thomas Aquinas, is only according to Prantl (note 
117) * a lHwkseller*s puff or advertisement '. 

• 1 licronymus or Jerome Pardus, a lecturer on Logic of the school called by 
Prantl *Tcrminist Scotists.* His Medulla dyalectices^ I505» edited by Major 
and Jacobus Ortiz, is his only known work. — Prantl, iv. p. 246. 

• Thomas Hricot, who published alone or in collaboration with George of 
HnifMcls several logical tracts between 1402- 1505. — Prantl, iv. p. 199. 

• John Dorp's Commentary was first published at Venice 1499, and twice by 
Major, Paris 1504, folio, and Lyons 15 10, quarto. At the close of the latter 
edition Dorp is called *verus nominalium opinionum recitator'. — Prantl, iv. 

p. a37» note 357. 

• John Huritlin, who died not before 1358, was one of the earliest Nominalists, 
and following Ockham declares Theological Dogma and Philosophy to be incom- 
mennurablc. • Metaphysics differs from Theology in this, that while both treat 
of (i(m1 and Divine Things Metaphysics does not consider God and Divine Things 
except in no far as they can be proved and concluded or induced by demonstra- 
tive reaionK. Theology, on the other hand, holds certain articles of belief as 
prlnciplei without evidence, and considers further what can be deduced from 
•uch urticlen.'— Prantl, iv. p. 15, note 58. 


unnecessary further to refer, as he added to Dorp only some short 
marginal notes. But in addition he composed several treatises 
which were collected and printed more or less completely, some of 
them as Commentaries on Petrus Hispanus, and others Lectures 
he gave in the Faculty of Arts (Libri quos in artibus emisit). At 
a later date he collected the Logic of Aristotle and the Summulae 
of Petrus Hispanus in an bitroductorium, and finally he added Ques- 
iiones with reference to the old Logic (Vettis Ars), 

If we first confine ourselves to the order of the collective edition, 
we find it commences with a treatise De complexo signi/icabili, in 
which he gives, like his master Pardus in his Medulla, an affirma- 
tive answer to the question as to the existence of complex terms. 
Then follow two lAbri Terminorum, in the first of which, after fixing 
the logical meaning of the word Term, almost all possible divisions 
of the Term are discussed by means of doubts and their solutions, 
and in the second book the same subject is treated in somewhat 
altered order, after which he places Abbrevialiones Parvorum Logic- 
aliuin}. Next follow the Summnlce, that is, a commentary on Petrus 
Hispanus, where we find in the introduction a reference to Gerson's 
utterances on the use of logic, and also a ridiculous play of letters 
with the word Summulce. The contents of this part are a commen- 
tary on the first four tracts of Petrus Hispanus, where at the 
close of the doctrine of Judgment (following Bricot)* there is a 
special explanation of the term Cotitingenl, and of the question 
current since Buridan wrote as to the variation of the middle 
term^. Besides, the subject of the divisions of the Term is again 
examined, with reference to the views of Marsilius^, and at the 
close of the Categories a Tree of the Predicaments is added. In 
treating of the Syllogism Major repudiates the Fourth Figure as 
an unnecessary multiplication more sharply than earlier writers. 
He adduces, like his teacher Pardus, sophistical examples for each 
Mood. The Topics and the refutation of Fallacies he treats sum- 
marily, because especially in the first there is much unnecessary 

^ The Parva Lcgicalia were topics which were not treated specially by 
Aristotle, but deduced by minor authors from passages in his works. — Prantl, 
iv. p. 204, note 153. 

^ Prantl, iv. p. 203. ' Prantl, iv. p. 34. 

■* Not Marsilius of Padua but of Inghen (d. 1396), a leading Professor of Logic 
at Heidelberg, whose writings are very voluminous, and in general follow Ock- 
ham, Buridan, and other Nominalists though with some variations. — Prantl, iv. 
pp. 94-102. 


A second division of the work begins with the Ejcponibilia ^ in 
which there is nothing new, for he follows Paulus Venetus ^ and 
Petrus Mantuanus'"^. Then follow the Insolubilia. with reference 
to which the statement of the principles of others affords the chief 
interest, for in this part also he follows the explanations of Paulus 
Venetus. The Commentary added to the second Analytic appears 
in an improper place and calls for no special remark. We have 
this portion of the work not from the hand of Major but of his 
pupil Coronel. The Parva Logicalia follow in six tracts, from which 
we learn that they were reckoned a part of the relus Logical 
while the Consequentia and Exponibilia were deemed to belong to 
the Nova Logica, 

The contents of this part consists of a controversial exposition 
of Petrus Hispanus with frequent use of Peter of Mantua and 
George of Brussels. Finally there is inserted a concise exposition 
of the Obligatoria ^ and Argumetita Sophistica, in which we notice a 
disposition to contest every proposition sophistically, and in addi- 
tion a monograph on the Iv finite in which all possible sophisms 
which belong to this subject are examined. After what has been 
said it is not necessary to examine in detail the two last-named 
writings of Major on Logic, for in the Introductorium he merely 
repeats what he had written before, and the Quoestianes are only a 
commentary of the usual kind on the Vetiis Ars in the sense of the 

Among the scholars of Major may be named first David 
Cranston of Glasgow, who taught in Paris, and wrote a treatise on 
ftisolubilia and Obligatoria, As to the first of these, he proceeds 

* The Exponibilia were certain words of frequent occurrence in propositions 
which required to l)e expounded to avoid ambiguity and sophisms. 

" I'aulus Veneius (d. 1428) is treated at length by Prantl (iv. pp. 118, 140), 
who considers his writings as marking the most extreme growth of the Scholastic 
Logic. He commented on the Physics, Ethics, as well as on the Logic of 

' Petrus Mantuanus, a Logician of the Terminist School, published circa 
1483. — Prantl, iv. p. 176. 

* The Velus Logica or Ars was not the older logic in point of time but that 
which treated of the remoter or less immediate parts of logic, while the Nova 
Logica treated of the Syllogisms and its parts and forms.— -Prantl, iv. p. 176, 
note 9. 

* The Obligatoria was the division of Logic which dealt with disputation. 
The disputant was obliged either to maintain (sustinere) or reject (desustinere) 
or to doubt (dubitare) the proposition advanced. Hence the doctrine of Obligations 
wai divided into * Positio' * Depositio' and * Dubitatio. '—Prantl, iv. p. 41. 


from a statement of the various opinions of others to his own 
attempt to treat the Itisolubiiia ^ in accordance with the generally 
accepted rules of Logic. . . . With the Obligatoria he adopts, in 
comparison with Major, a somewhat modified division of the Term, 
where, for the first time, we meet with an express application of 
the different sorts of opposition to the doctrine of Concepts. From 
the same school came Antony Coronet of Segovia, a very fertile 
writer, who wrote a Commentary on the Categories, an Exposition 
of the doctrine of Judgments and the properties of Terms, under 
the title of Rosarium^ an Explanation of the Posterior Analytics of 
Aristotle^ and a monograph on Exponibilia and Fallcunae, He also 
revised and completed a tract of his master, Major, on Consequenlia, 
... A second Spaniard bred in the school of Major was Caspar 
Lax. Of his three works, namely Termini, Ohligaiiones, and 
Ingolubilia, the first is merely a repetition of what Major had 
taught on this subject. The high self-esteem which the Terminists 
of the school of Major had reached is shown in a letter of a 
friend of Lax, Antony Alcaris, which is printed in the treatise of 
Obligationes, In this the 'clear, perspicuous, useful, sweet, and 
splendid' dissertations of the Modem are contrasted with the 
' languid, arid, jejune, obscure, and little pleasing' works of the 
Ancient Philosophers. . . . Another scholar of Major was Johannes 
Dullart from Ghent, who wrote Qucesliones on the Categories and a 
treatise on the De Interpretatione of Aristotle, in which he shows 
extensive reading, and his decided partisanship with the Term- 
inists. ... A fellow-scholar of the last-mentioned writer was the 
Scotchman, Robert Caubrailh, William Manderslon, also a Scotch- 
man, and several other Spaniards of minor note, are described as 
belonging to the same school. 

The reader who desires to follow the intricacies of the mediseval 
logic must refer for further details to Prantl's exhaustive and 
learned work.^ But for the sake of those who may wish to form a 
general idea of the distinction between the Antiqui or Reales and 
the Modemi or Nominates, and of the position of the Terminists, 

^ The Insolubilia were divided into three modes — (i) Those which could not 
be solved in any way ; (2) those which could not be solved because of some im- 
pediment ; and (3) those which were difficult to solve. As example of the first 
was given an invisible sound, of the second a stone hidden in the earth, and of 
the third an invisible sun. — Prantl, iv. p. 40, note 158. 

" Prantl, iv. p. 174, points out that at the close of the fifteenth century the 
Terminists were the majority, though denounced by the orthodox Thomists. 


as the school of which Major was a leader was called, we borrow 
from tlie same writer the following passages : — 

'We first notice a continuation of the earlier tendencies in 
Logic until the year 1472, when we find the definition of the 
Party differences followed by a development through the Term- 
inist Scotism, which was opposed by a preponderating conserva- 
tive Thomism. From about the period 1480-1520 (i.e. practically 
Majors (leriod) a long series of the now reigning school of the 
IVnninists appears.' . . .^ If we direct our attention to Paris, it 
is easily to bo understood that in the Sorbonne only the elder 
views were j>ermitted. On the other hand, the University had 
actively participated in the gradual development of the various 
new opinions, and had even accepted the views of the Terminists. 
But in 147ci, in consequence of the intrigues of John Boucard, 
assisted by a former Sorbonnist, Johannes A Lapide, the Modems 
hail been placed under a bann, and their works in the Library 
hail even been chained, so that they could not be read. The 
dtK'tors called Nomitutles were those who on principle attached 
extreme importance to the properties of Terms, including the 
doctrines of Insoluhilia, Obfigaiiones, Consequentia, while the Realists 
applied themselves to things and despised the doctrine of Terms ^. 
The dispute was therefore, in the first place, one as to the method 
t>f I^>gic, and only in the second place concerned with the meta- 
physical question as to Universals, with reference to which the 
Tenninists claimed for themselves the praise of strict orthodoxy. 
In the year 1481 the Royal Edict against the Nominalists was 
rescinded, and their books were again allowed to be read. 

At the time therefore that Major came to the University the 
Nominalist doctrine had resumed its popularity all the more 
because of the persecution which it had suff*ered, and Major s own 
masters in Logic, Thomas Bricot^ and Jerome Pardus*, both 
belonged to it. The subtleties and sophistries which the new 
Nominal logic of the Terminists in the hands of Major and his 
followers ultimately led to, as exemplified in Prantl's extracts 
from their works, largely justified the contempt which Buchanan 
and other disciples of the Renaissance bestowed on it. But none 

* Prantl. iv. p. i86. 

' It was with reference to this distinction, perhaps, that Erasmus stated his 
apophthegm which appears to contain the truth of the matter : * Cognitio ver- 
borum prior est, cognitio rerum potior est,* though that apophthegm has a wider 
application than the merely logical controversy of the Schools. 

• Prantl, iv. p. 199. * /did, p. 246. 


the less was this stage in logical doctrine an attempt to clear the 
meaning of words from dubiety in the same line which William of 
Ockham formerly, and Hobbes and Locke subsequently, followed. 
It was also, as has been generally recognised by historians of 
philosophy, both through its merits and demerits, one of the 
causes which led to the dissolution of the Scholastic Philosophy. 
That Major belonged to this school in Logic (for though he made 
an attempt to reconcile the Realists and Nominalists, it was, as we 
have seen, by assuming the principles of the latter) reacted on his 
philosophical position, and made him incline to the views of 
Ockham, the works of two of whose followers he edited. But in 
Theology he claimed to be and was strictly orthodox, and ends 
several of his theological treatises with the usual formula, that he 
submitted all he taught to the Church and the Theological Faculty 
of Paris. 

It is proper to keep in view that he was also a Scotist, and pro- 
moted the publication of the Reportala, an abridgment of the 
Parisian Lectures of the Doctor Subtilis. Both the followers of 
Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus claimed to be orthodox, and 
that their philosophy kept within the limits which the Church 
allowed to the Schools. Perhaps the Scotists were even more 
vehement than the Nominalists in the assertion of the soundness of 
their Theological Doctrine, in order to allay suspicions. But the 
Roman Church, as if by natural instinct, and the historians of 
philosophy who have regarded the subject from an external stand- 
point, concur in regarding Aquinas and not Duns as its true 
champion among philosophers. Scotism is now almost dead, and 
the present Pope is douig his best to revive the study of Aquinas, 
But important as Thomas Aquinas is in the history of philosophy, 
the attempt to restore his old authority as the Master of Philo- 
sophy in the nineteenth century is a hopeless attempt. Scholasti- 
cism in any form is now impossible. 

The Terminists, as the School to which Major belonged was 
styled, in some respects occupied an intermediate position between 
the Scotists and Thomists, the Nominalists and the Realists, but 
with a decided leaning to the former; and Major is frequently 
claimed by historians of philosophy, as by Tennemann^ and 

^ Bohn's Translation of Tennemann's History of Philosophy, p. 241. Ueberweg 
does not mention Major by name, but reckons amongst the Nominalists who 
followed Ockham in the fourteenth and fifteenth century several of his masters : 
•John Buridan, Rector of the University of Paris, of importance because of his 


PrantP, as a Scotist and Nominalist It was natural that Major 
should adopt this school. He claimed Duns Scotus as his country- 
man^ for he had no more doubt of Duns's Scottish than Wadding 
in the following century had of his Irish origin. His chief masters 
were Franciscans, who believed in Duns Scotus as a member of 
their own order. And he came to Paris at a time when the 
Nominalist development of Scotism was the reigning philosophy 
in the university. 

Similar causes led him to adopt (following Ockham, Gerson, 
and D'Ailly) the anti-papal position of the Galilean Church. 

The Franciscans, speaking generally, for there were exceptions, 
opposed the absolute claims of the Ultramontane Italian Popes. 
Their doctrine of Evangelical Poverty cut at the roots, as has been 
well pointed out by Mr. Owen^, both of the temporal power of the 
Pope and the excessive wealth of the prelates and some of the 
ecclesiastical orders. No one accepted more completely than 
Major this doctrine. Indeed most, though not all, of his opinions 
which appear to us bold and anti-papal may be traced to this 
source. In his writings we constantly come across passages which 
appear to be copied almost word for word from the works of 
Ockham or of Gerson. It is because of this that he may be 
considered, as Ockham has also been, an unconscious precursor 
of the Reformation in spite of his resting finally in all questions of 
Faith in rigidly orthodox conclusions. 

Nor can we overlook the fact that, like so many other Schoolmen, 
the method he adopted of arguing all questions on two sides, the 
Yes and No method as it has been styled, — the doubts which he 
raised and by no means always solved, and the habit of leaving 

examination of the Freedom of the Will and his Logical works ; Marsilius of 
Inghen ; Peter D'Ailly, who while defending the Church Doctrine yet gave the 
preference to the Bible above Tradition, and the Council above the Pope ; and 
John Gerson, D*Ailly's scholar and friend, who combined Mysticism with Scholas- 
ticism.' — Gcschichte der Philosophies ii. p. 215. In an instructive passage, too 
long to quote, he compares Duns Scotus with Kant, and shows how the critical 
tendency begun by Duns was carried further by Ockham and the Nominalists, 
ii. p. 204. 

* Prantl treats Major throughout (iv. p. 247 et seq. ) as belonging to the Scotist 
Terminist or Terminist Scotist School. 

' Dr. Karl Werner, who writes from the Roman point of view, coincides with 
Mr. Owen on this point, and remarks that Ockham's opposition to the Papacy 
turned on the dispute raised by the Franciscan zealots as to the vow of purity. — 
Die nachscoiistische SkoltLstik^ Wien 1883, p. 17. 


many points to the judgment of his readers, had, what Mr. Owen has 
called, with reference to the greater names amongst the Scholastics, 
a skeptical tendency. It is possible to exaggerate this tendency, 
but it is impossible to deny its existence. He followed Duns 
Scotus too in submitting all authority, even the authority of the 
Church in philosophical matters, and especially in the practical 
and moral department of conduct, to the test of reason and justice. 
This it is which has caused the ' Subtle Doctor ' to be looked upon 
with suspicion by the Church, and to be regarded by historians of 
philosophy as the first great dissolvent of the older orthodox 
scholasticism. Major and the Terminists were less bold .in philo- 
sophising than Duns, less bold in action than Ockham, but not the 
less did their writings and the opinions they introduced tend in 
the same direction. It was no accident which led Major to direct 
the republication of the Lectures of Duns at Paris and the logical 
treatises of the disciples of Ockham. 

Prantl, to whom we are indebted for the substance of most of 
this note, but who must not be held responsible for the view taken 
in it, remarks in the Preface to his fourth volume, after having 
made a thorough examination of every known work of the logicians 
of the later period of scholastic logic, that to describe even useless 
works is not in itself useless if it saves others from a like labour. 
But this is a too modest under-estimate of his own valuable 
labours and of the writings of the Schoolmen. 

Their method and philosophy were not a mere marking of time, 
or a retrogression. It is true they were not great original thinkers 
like the chief masters of Greek or Modern Philosophy. But they 
conducted a progressive process — a disputation, to use a word 
which would have been more familiar to them — between Dog- 
matic Theology, Ancient Philosophy, and Mediaeval Thought, 
which was necessary to the mental development of Europe. 
* Mens agitat molem et inter se corpora miscet' In this develop- 
ment Major took a minor but a distinct part, as will be acknow- 
ledged the more his writings are studied with the attention 
directed, neither to their form, which is thoroughly scholastic, nor 
to their explicit conclusions, which are completely dogmatic and 
orthodox, but to their ' obiter dicta ' and ultimate tendency. 

It was even, we may venture to say, this tendency, which had 
more free play when he came to write history, that gave its 
critical, practical, and independent character to his historical work ; 
for the thoughts of such a man in the ages of Scholasticism were 



not disconnected, bat pervaded bv the same method to whatever 
subject he turned them. This consideration may also justify the 
length of the present note in a work primarily concerned only with 
Major as a historian and not as a philosopher. 

.E. M. 








To him who is illustrious at once for his most admirable 
natural endowment and for his most lofty descent in 
the line of both kingdoms of Greater Britain, to James 
the Fifth, King of Scots, 

John, Major by name, Scot by nation, theologian of the 
university of Paris by profession, with prayers for his 
prosperity, offers the homage that is due to his King. 

In commencement of this narration of the glorious deeds of 
your ancestors, of those men who have been our kings and 
princes from the cradle of history even to this present, 
and in the dedication of that work to your name of most 
fortunate omen. Fifth James, King of Scots, of happiest birth, 
from whom too we all of us hope the best and greatest things, 
I have thought right to undertake the clearing of three points 
and their defence from misrepresentation. This the first, that, 
as almost all men say, contrary to the habitude of the old 
historians, I seek a patron for this my small lucubration ; 
secondly, that I, a theologian by profession, should write a 
history ; and thirdly, that I use a style more congruous to a 
theologian than to a historian. 

For removal accordingly of the first objection, and for my 
justification in the eyes of those who pretend that it is not 
fitting to dedicate a historical work to any person, seeing that 
he who seeks for a patron must put on the mask of a 
flatterer rather than that of a historian, whose first law it is 
to write the truth ; all that these objectors urge in support 
of their contention is this: that neither Sallust, nor Livy, 
nor any one of the ancients made dedication of his works. I 
frankly confess that I have never read any dedication made by 
them, whether because they observed no such use, or because 

cxxxiv PREFACE 

these have come to be lost in lapse of time, as has befallen so 
many other things. Sallust, indeed, had no occasion to dedi- 
cate his work, since in his day the Romans were as yet without 
kings; and Livy perchance had no wish to take this course, 
thinking it more glorious to accomplish for the gods and for 
posterity all that mighty work of his than to inscribe the same 
to any mortal man. But the poets almost all of them, although 
themselves too have written histories, dedicated their poems 
to princes ; and Valerius Maximus, when he was about to 
narrate the memorable achievements not only of his own race 
but of foreign nations likewise, makes his address to Caesar. 
Our own Jerome likewise, when he was setting himself to 
translate both profane and sacred histories, was not silent 
as to the person to whom he would dedicate his work. Augus- 
tine did the same, and that writer, whom, though he be one 
of ourselves, I yet reckon to be no way contemptible, but 
venerable rather — I mean Bede ^, — and almost all the rest of 
the ecclesiastical historians. For which reason, seeing that 
to your Highness and to your ancestors we owe all that we 
have, I think it right and proper to dedicate this work now 
undertaken to the same. Yet lest my work should contain 
any suspicion of flattery, I have left untouched, to be dealt 
with by other hands, matters of most recent date. 

From that second objection, that it is not becoming in a 
theologian to write history, I utterly dissent. For if it 
is the special province of a theologian to lay down defini- 
tions in regard to faith, and religion, and morals, I will not 
believe that I transgress when I narrate not only what has 
come to pass, or by whose counsel such and such matters 
were carried, but if I also make distinct definition whether 
these matters were carried rightly or wrongly. And, indeed, 
I have given my utmost endeavour to follow this course in all 
cases, and most of all where the question was ambiguous, to 
the end that from the reading of this history you may learn 
not only the thing that was done, but also how it ought to 

^ Orig. ' et licet nostras non contemnendus auctor, immo venerabilis, Beda ' ; 
F. * et licet nostras non contemnendus auctor, immo Venerabilis Beda '. The 
punctuation of the original seems to give a more graceful sense. 

PREFACE cxxxv 

have been done, and that you may by this means and at the 
cost of little reading come to know what the experience of 
centuries, if it were granted to you to live so long, could 
scarcely teach. 

I proceed to the consideration of the third objection. I 
confess that I might have used a more cultivated style ; I 
question if that style would have been more convenient. For 
if one should give what would be almost a Latin turn to the 
names of our own people and places, scarcely should we that 
were born in Scotland understand what was meant. And 
inasmuch as our princes have ever aimed rather to act nobly 
than to speak elegantly, so with those who have given them- 
selves to the pursuit of knowledge it is of more moment 
to understand aright, and clearly to lay down the truth 
of any matter, than to use elegant and highly-coloured 
language. I call to witness two most famous Scots — who bore 
each of them the name of John^ — and Bede, and Alcuin*, 
and a hundred more^ who, when they first learned Greek and 
Latin, chose rather so to write that they needed not an 
interpreter than with a curious research of language. 

This then, most gracious King, is what I held it right to 
say in behalf of the work which I have undertaken. Accept 
the same, I pray, with favour. May you read to good purpose 
this history of your ancestors now dedicated to your felicity, 
and may you live happy to the years of Nestor ! 

From the worthy and no way ignoble college of Montaigu 
at Paris. 

* i.e. John Scotus Erigena and John Duns Scotus. See infra^ pp. loi, 113, 
206, 228-230. 

- See infra^ p. 102. 

' *et sexcenti alii*. *Sexaginta' was used by the Romans for any large 
number, and ' sexcenti ' was often used to express an immense and indefinite 
number. A contemporary use of the phrase will be found in Erasmus, Paraclesis 
(cd. 1520, p. 192— of the *regula' of Christ as compared with the *regula Francis- 
cana') : Denique qua (ut sexcentas etiam addas) nulla possit esse sanctior?' An 
instructive series of examples in which the vague use by our early historians of 
60,000 led to long-lasting misconceptions will be found in an article by Mr. 
J. H. Round on *The Introduction of Knight Service into England* in The 
English Historical Review for October 1891. 

• « 




CHAP. I. — A short Preface by John Major, theologian of Paris, 
and Scotsman by birth, to Ms work concerning the rise and gests 
of the Britons, Likewise concerning the name and the first inhabitants 
of Greater Britain^, 

In few words, and in the manner almost of the theologians, 
I am about to write an account of Britain, by far the most 
famous of islands, and one which, in the opinion of illus- 
trious writers, may be reckoned even by itself as a second 
world. I shall treat first of the reason of its name, then in 
general terms of the kingdoms of which it is composed, and 
last of all I shall deal at length with those kingdoms and their 
special history. Our ancestors called Britain by the name of ^{jj^" ^^^^^ 
Albion. Of the origin of this name Caxton, the English 
chronicler, gives the following visionary * account : There was a 
certain king of Syria, by name Diocletian, to whom his wife, 
Labana, bore three-and- thirty daughters. Of these the eldest 
was called Albine. The king gave his daughters in marriage 
to three-and-thirty princes of his kingdom ; but they despised 
their husbands, and in one night slew them every one. The 

* ' Greater Britain *. The phrase * Britannia Major * is not common ; but it 
was used, a little later, in the title of Bale's Illustrium Maioris Britannia 
ScriptorufHy hoc est^ Anglia, Cam May ac Scotia Summarium^ Ipswich 1548. 
In the edition of i557-i5S9f printed at Basel, the title is Scriptorum Illustrium 
Majoris Britannia ^ quam nunc Angliam et Scotiam vacant, Catalogus. On the 
other hand, the editor of Ptolemy's Geography (Strassburg, 1522) applies the 
words to England alone : * Britania maior cui nomen est Anglia'. Geoflfrcy of 
Monmouth's History, printed in 1508 by Badius Ascensius, the printer of Major's 
History, has the title Britannia utriusque Regum et Principum origo et gesta, 
' Britannia minor ' and ' parva Britannia ' are in frequent use to designate 
Aremorica or Armorica — which we now call Brittany. 

^ ' somniculosam '. Camden, Brit, ed. 1600, p. 88, uses the words 'somniata 
filiola ' of Scota, the daughter of Pharaoh. 


••• • 



g: •. JOHN MAJORS HISTORY [book i. 


•^'kjTig thereupon banished his daughters from his kingdom, but 
* 'gave them a ship and a full provision of food. At the end of 
»• their long wanderings by sea they came to an island (which is 
called Britain), and after Albine — for she was, as it were, their 
leader and queen — they called the island Albion. A short time 
thereafter the women had intercourse with demons and brought 
forth giants, who practised in that country cruelty and robbery, 
until a certain Brutus slew them, and, taking possession of the 
island, called it, after his own name, Britain.^ 

This narrative of Caxton's seems to me partly fabulous — 
he found a handle for his fiction in the story of the children 
of Aegyptus and Danae — partly ridiculous, and partly to have 
some connection with historical fact. For where shall you 
find three-and-thirty daughters bom of one woman? How 
shall you believe that these slew every one her husband ; and 
that, set adrift, without so much as an oar, on a boundless 
ocean, they did not utterly perish ? I hold it further for alto- 
gether improbable that a demon, whether succubus or incubus, 
should have been able to convey from foreign shores any seed 

* *The Chronicles of England*, known as * Caxton's Chronicle', was a repro- 
duction by him of the popular ' Chronicle of Brut '• The account taken from 
Wjrnkyn de Worde*s edition (1528) is as follows :^ 

' It befell thus that this Dioclesian spoused a gentyll damoysel that was wonders 
fayre, that was his vncles doughter Labana, and she loued him as reason wolde, 
so that he gate on her xxxiij doughters, of the whiche the eldest was called 
Albyne, and these damoyselles whan they came vnto age became so fayre that it 
was wonder . . . And it befell thus that Dyoclesyan thought to mary his 
doughters amonge all those kynges that were at the solempnite. . . . And it 
befell thus afterward that this dame Albine became so stoute and so steme that 
she tolde lytel pryce of her lorde and of hym had scome and despite, and wold 
not do his wyll. . . . Wherfore the kyng that had wedded Albyne wrote the 
tatches and condicyons of his wyfe Albyne, and the lettre sent to Dyoclesyan 
her fader. . . . And than said Albyne : Well I wote, fayre systers, that our 
husbondes haue complayned vnto our fader vpon us . . . wherfore systers my 
counseyle is that this night whan our husbondes ben a bedde, all we with one 
assent to kytte theyr throtes, and than we may be in peas of them. . . . And 
anone all the ladyes consented and graunted to this counseyle. And whan nyght 
was comen, the lordes and ladyes went to bedde. And anone as theyr lordes 
were aslepe, they kytte all theyr husbondes throtes. . . . Whan Dioclesian theyr 
fader herde of this thynge, he became wroth ryght furyously agaynst his 
doughters, and anone he would them all haue brent. But all the barons and 
lordes of Sirrye counseyled not so for to do suche straytnes to his own doughters, 
but shold voyde the lond of them for euermore, so that they never sholde come 
agayne, and so he dyd. . . . Than went out of the shyppe all the systers and 


that should still retain its potency, when the ocean lay be- 
tween.i More truly may we conclude, with other writers, that 
it was from its white headlands that this island was named Origin of 
Albion, for the rocks upon its eastern coast are of a snowy of Albion, 
whiteness. What Caxton says of Brutus, on the other hand, 
has a historical foundation ; for it is the opinion of most 
writers that Britain takes its name from Brutus. Geoffrey of 
Monmouth, a British monk, and also Caxton, relate that Brutus 
of Troy made prayer to Jupiter, Diana, and Mercury, that 
they would grant him somewhere a fit place of habitation. 
And as to this Geoffrey quotes the following verses: — 

Goddess of shades^ and huntress^ who at will 
Walk'st on the rolling spheres^ and through the deep ; 
On thy third reign^ the earthy look now^ and tell 
What land, what seat of rest, thou bidd'st me seek. 
What certain seat, where I may worship thee 
For aye, with temples vow'd and virgin quires. 

And when he had done his prayer, the goddess answered 
Brutus thus : — 

Brutus, far to the west, in the ocean wide. 
Beyond the realm of Gaul, a land there lies. 
Seagirt it lies, where giants dwelt of old ; 
Now void, it fits thy people : Thither bend 
Thy course, there shalt thou find a lasting seat ; 
There to thy sons another Troy shall rise. 
And kings be born of thee, whose dreadful might 
Shall awe the world and conquer nations bold.' 

toke the londe Albion as theyr syster called it, and there they went vp and downe, 
and founde neyther man ne woman ne chylde, but wylde beestes of dyuers 
kyndes. And whan theyr vitayles were dispended and fayled, they fedde them 
with herbes and fruytes in season of the yere, and so they l3rued as they best 
myght, and after that they toke flesshe of dyuers beestes and became wonders 
fatte, and so they desyred mannes company, and mannes kynde them fayled. 
And for hete they wexed wonders couragyous of kynde, so that they desyred 
more mannes company than ony other solace or myrth. When the deuyll that 
perceyued went by dyuers countrees and toke a body of the ayre, and lyking 
natures shad of men, and came in to the londe of Albion, and lay by those 
women and shad tho natures vpon them, and they conceyued and brought forth 
gyantes. ' 

^ Cf. Bk. II. ch. iv. 

' Geoffrey of Monmouth (H. ? 1100-1154) was archdeacon of Monmouth and 
afterwards bishop of St. Asaph. The verse translation is Milton's. Caxton*s 


Now there is no one so ignorant as not to know that this is 
a falsehood. For we nowhere read that the oracles made use 
of verses of this nature or of such language ; and further, the 
Stygian Diana knows, with definiteness, nothing concerning 
the future. Nor again were demons found inside of images.^ 
To know the future belongs to God alone. 

In the Ecclesiastical History of the English people by the 
Venerable Bede, a man of very wide reading^, we find it 
written* that the name of Britain was given to the island by an 
Aremoric tribe of the Grauls, which first of all inhabited the 
southern part of the island ; for which reason the island was 
called Britain by that Gallic tribe, and not contrariwise. But 
whencesoever the name, the island has now for many centuries 
been known as Britain. And about this Britain of ours, you 
will not wonder if many curious notions as to its origin have 
from time to time been hatched*. For it stands not other- 
wise with the first beginnings of the Romans, the Gauls, and 
many other peoples ; of these too there are varying opinions. 
Let this then sufiice as to the name of the island. I follow 
the opinion of the Venerable Bede, among British historians 

version, which is not an exact rendering of the verses as quoted by Major, is as 
follows : — * Brute wente vnto the ymage and said : Diane, noble goddesse that 
all thynge hast in thy myght, wyndes, waters, woodes, feldes, and all thiynges 
of the worlde, and all maner of beestes that ben therin, vnto you I make 
my prayer, that ye counseyle me and tell, where and in what place I shall 
haue a conuenyent place to dwell in with my folke. And there I shall make in 
the honour of the a fayre temple and a noble, wherin ye shall alwaye be 
honoured. When he had done his prayer, Diane answered in this maner. 
Brute, sayd she, go eucn forth thy way over the see in to fraunce to warde the 
west, there ye shal fynde an yle that is called Albion, and that yle is becom- 
passed all with the see, and no man may come therein but it be by shyppes, 
and in that londe were wont to dwell gyauntes, but now it is not so, but all 
wylderness, and that londe is destenyed and ordeyned for you and for your people.' 
— ZTfV/. Reg, Brit. lib. i. § ii. 

^ A good example of Major's independent judgment. Compare Minucius 
Felix, Octavius ch. 27 : * Isti igitur impuri spiritus, daemones, ut ostensum 
a magis, a philosophis et a Platone, sub statuis et imaginibus consecratis de- 
litescunt. ' Elmenhorst, as quoted by Ouzel in his edition of the Octavius^ refers 
further to Lactantius ii. 15, 16 ; Tertull. Apol. cap. 22 ; Chrysost. in Psalm, 
113, 134 ; Gregorius P.P. in Epist. ad Saxoms^ t. 2. Concil. fol. 132. 

' lectorem latissimum. 

» Hist. EccL i. I. < Pullulaverint. 


CHAP. II. — Of the description of Britain and its extent : that is, its 
breadth, length, and circiimference ; also of its fruitfulness, alike in 
things material and in famous men. 

Is the preceding chapter we have spoken of the origin of the 
names of Albion and Britain as applied to our island. We 
have now to speak of the island itself. Britain is a many- Britain, 
angled island of the ocean, separated by the sea from the 
whole continent — as Virgil has it in his verse : . 

£t penitus toto divisos orbe Britannos K 
To the east lie Gaul, Belgium, and Germany. Between Calais 
or Isius * and Dover is a great strait of thirty miles^ which a 
ship under a fair wind may cross in two hours. In other 
parts it is separated by a greater breadth of ocean from every 
land. To the south-west lies Hesperia, to the west Ireland, Hesperia. 
which is likewise an island, to the north the islands of the 
Orkneys. From south to north its length is eight hundred 
miles. The point of departure you may take in this way : — 
from Penwichstreit*, fifteen miles beyond Michaelstow in Corn- 
wall, to tlie furthest point of Caithness. We may put the 
matter more clearly thus : — the length extends from the 
furthest harbour of Wales in England to the end of Caith- 
ness in Scotland, which we now call Wick of Caithness. 
Whatever former writers have said of the breadth of the island, 
this I would have you know : that it presents a great diversity. 
In some places, as from St. Davids^, the extreme point of 

~'~£c/. i. 67! 

^ Isius ; more commonly Itius. Some writers identify it with Wissent or 
Witsand, near Calais. — Danville, *M^moire sur le port Icius*, AUmoires de 
VAcacUmie dts Inscriptions ^ xxviii. p. 397. Lewin, The Invasion of Britain by 
Julius Caesar^ 1^59* identities it with Boulogne, and Professor Airy with some 
place at the mouth of the Somme. Major calls Somerset — Captain of Calais — 
• Itiorum ductor*, Bk. vi. ch. xvii. 

'* 'Triginta millia passuum \ The Roman 'mille passuum '=1618 English 
yards — about one-tenth shorter than the English mile. Whether these are taken 
as Roman or as English miles. Major's estimate of the distance is inaccurate, for 
the Straits of Dover are only 2 1 miles wide at that part. Taken with what he 
sa3rs of the time in which the Straits may be crossed, one might suspect a mis- 
print for * viginti *. 

•• * a Penwichstreit hoc est a Pejiuici strata', i,e, Landsend. 

* Orig. prints * Meuenia', and F., copying the mistake, prints * Mevenia * ; 
but Camden (ed. 1600) has * Meneuia, quam . . . Angli hodie S, Dautd vocaint,* 


Wales, to Yarmouth in Norfolk, we find a breadth of two 
hundred miles ; in most places, however, the breadth is less — 
say eighty, seventy, or sixty leagues ^ We must, therefore, 
reduce this variety of breadth to a mean measure, as the 
philosophers would say. I conceive the whole island to have 
a mean breadth of seventy leagues. I mean that it is equal 
in size to anolher country four hundred leagues in length and 
seventy leagues in breadth. Ptolemy, in his Geography, gives 
it after Ceylon * the first place among islands, and Solinus 
calls it another world*, and its renown is evident from the 
?BiSSn!^^^ records of Greek and Latin writers. And though Cicero, in 
a letter to Trebatius*, calls Britain barren, and affirms that 
it yields no grain of gold, or of silver, or of brass, while it is 
wanting too in every liberal art, some allowance must be made 
for a man whose attention was engaged by other matters, and 
who had not, like the second Pliny, and Ptolemy, and other 
writers of their kind, made an exhaustive study of cosmo- 
graphy and of the fertility or barrenness of various countries. 
For more than most doQs Britain abound in minerals, such as 
gold in Crawford Moor in Scotland^, while silver, brass, and iron 
are found almost everywhere. It yields, too, a sulphurous and 
bituminous kind of earth, whose fire is hotter and more active 
than a fire obtained from wood. This is no matter for wonder, 
since in denser matter there is more of form than there is in 
rarer. Now as, according to the philosophers, vigour of action 
proceeds from form, there must of necessity be greater vigour 

^ The ' leuca *=one and a half Roman miles. * Taprobana. 

' ' . . . nisi Britannia insula non qualibet amplitudine nomen pene orbis 
alterius mereretur.* — lul. Solini Polyhistor, The Polyhistor was an abridgment 
of geography taken almost entirely from Pliny. It was very popular in the 
Middle Ages, and was one of the first books printed. 

* EpisL ad Fam, vii. 7. Jb, vii. 10. 

^ Cf. the Second Report of the Royal Commission on Mining Royalties, 
issued in May of the current year, and in particular the evidence of Mr. Cochran- 
Patrick, who, when asked whether any great quantity of gold was formerly pro- 
duced in Scotland, answered : ' A very large quantity. Indeed, nearly the 
whole of the gold coinages of Scotland were minted out of the native metal, and 
the records ... of the Mint show that a very large amount of gold was brought 
into the Mint from Crawford Moor and the Leadbills, and other parts of Lanark- 
shire and Dumfries-shire. I remember in one case that one miner brought in 
8 lbs. weight (Scots) of gold in one week, and was paid for it at the mint rate. 


of action where there is more form. Now earth is denser than 
wood, for which reason this substance, rather than wood, is 
used by smelters of iron. It produces, however, more smoke 
than is the case with wood. But of the latter fuel there is no 
scarcity^. The island has, further, a sufficiency for its own 
needs of soil fitted for the culture of wheat, winter wheat ^, 
pease, oats ; an abundance too of pleasant rivers, well-watered 
meadows, rich pastures for its herds of cattle ; nowhere shall 
you find softer or finer wool. The woods are well stocked 
with stags, hinds, and wild boars ; and nowhere, it is thought, 
do rabbits swarm as they do here. 

The inhabitants of all Britain are of a proud temper and 
given to fighting, and though many may come by their death 
within the island in civil war, they are still in force sufficient 
not only to resist a foreign invader, but even to carry the 
struggle into his country. This matter has been fully treated 
by foreign historians, and with them I leave it. 

Wheat will not grow in every part of the island ; and for 
this reason the common people use barley and oaten bread. 
And as many Britons are inclined to be ashamed of things 
nowise to be ashamed of, I will here insist a little. And first 
I say this : that though the soil of all Britain were barren, no 
Briton need blush for that — if we approve the answer made to 
a certain Greek by Anacharsis the Scythian*. For when this 
Greek was taunting Anacharsis with the barrenness of Sc}'thia, 
well did Anacharsis answer : * Thou indeed art a disgrace to 
thy country, but my country it is that disgraces me.** And I 

^ It is rather difficult to reconcile this assertion — *eis ligna pro igne non 
desunt ' — with the words in chapter vii. of this book : * In partibus Scotiae 
meridionalibus pauca sunt nemora. * The latter statement is in accordance with 
the generally-received opinion that ' the southern division of Scotland was not a 
well-wooded country*. Cf. Mr. Cosmo Innes's Sketches of Early Scotch History ^ 
p. loi, and the Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland, under timber, forest, 


* * siligo *. Cf. Pliny xviii. lo : * To retume to our winter white wheat called 
Siligo, it never ripeneth kindly and all togither, as other come doth : and for 
that it is so tender and ticklish, as that no come will less abide delay* etc — 
Philemon Holland's translation, i6oi. The whole passage is worth consulting 
in connection with what Major afterwards says about the proportions of grain 
and flour in the making of bread. 

' Diog. Laert. de vitis philosophorum lib. i. 


go further : I say that he should not have said * my country 
disgraces me \ unless in the opinion of the unthinking. In both 
Hesperiae ^, in several provinces of both Gauls ^, nay further, 
in the Promised Land in the fourth zone, bread made from 
barley is in common use. Just such bread were Christ and 
his apostles wont to eat, as may be seen from the fourteenth 
chapter of Matthew and the sixth chapter of John. Pliny, 
too, makes mention in his thirtieth book^ of meal made from 
oats, and there is in Normandy, near to Argentolium, a village 
called Pain d'*Aveine*. But you may object that it is so 
called in derision, and because such meal is an uncommon thing 
among the Gauls. I say, for my part, that I would rather eat 
that British oaten bread than bread made of barley or of wheat. 
I nowhere remember to have seen on the other side of the 
water such good oats as in Britain, and the people make their 
bread in the most ingenious fashion. For those who may be 
How oats are driven to use it, I will explain their method. The oats having 
KSd^^^ ^ been grown in a soil of a middling richness, they roast the 
grain thus : a house is built in the manner of a dove-cot, and 
in the centre thereof, crosswise from the wall, they fix beams 
twelve feet in height. Upon these beams they lay straw, and 
upon the straw the oats. A fire is then kindled in the lower 
part of the building, care being taken that the straw, and all 
else in the house, be not burnt up ^ Thus the oats are dried. 

1 Major in chapter ii. means Spain by * Hesperia*. By * both Hesperiae * he 
means Spain and Italy, which was anciently known as Hesperia. 
^ t.t. G. cisalpina and G. transalpina. 

• Pliny (iv. 13 in Holland's translation): * Three days sailing from the 
Scythian coast there is the Hand Baltia, of exceeding greatnes. . . . There 
be also named the lies Oonae, wherein the inhabitants live of birds egges and 
otes. * Cf. Pomponius Mela, de Situ Orbis iii. 6 : * In his esse Oaeonas, qui 
ovis avium palustrium et avenis tantum alantur.' Is it possible that the * lies 
Oon'ae * were Scottish islands ? 

* * Aveine, avoine, avena [oats], d*oii le suffixed*Isigny-pain-d'aveine.' — Hist, 
et Gloss, du Nortn., by E. Le H^richer, vol. ii. p. 180. Isigny, if this is the place 
referred to by Major, is on the sea-coast of Normandy, but not near Argentan. 

' For a like method in Ireland, compare * In the remote places of Ireland, in 
the stead of Threashing their Oats, they vse to burne them out of the straw, 
and then winnowing them in the wind, from their burnt ashes, they make them 
into meale.* — A New Irish Progfiostication^ or Popish CaUender^ 4to, Lond. 
1624, p. 40. For the continuance of the practice in Scotland, see Johnson's 


and thereafter carried to the mill, where, by a slight elevation 
of the upper millstone the outer husk gets shaken out. The flour 
alone then remains, dried, and in good condition, more excellent 
by far than the flour that is used by confectioners ^ in any part 
of the world. From this dried grain, which from its resem- 
blance to lentil flour they call by that name, after it has been 
ground small in the manner of meal, the oaten bread is made. 
As the common people use it both leavened and unleavened, 
oats are very largely grown. Just eat this bread once, and 
you shall find it far from bad. It is the food of almost all 
the inhabitants of Wales, of the northern English (as I 
learned some seven years back), and of the Scottish pea- 
santry ; and yet the main strength of the Scottish and Eng- 
lish armies is in men who have been tillers of the soil — a 
proof that oaten bread is not a thing to be laughed at. But 
that you may know how to get good oats, observe this rule. If 
from a fixed quantity of oats, even with the outer husk, you The testing 
get an equal or greater quantity of flour, yoiu* oats are good ° °^^ 
and full-bodied ; but if the quantity of flour be less, then the 
oats are not good. In Britain the quantity of flour thus ob- 
tained is often greater than that of its oats. From a smaller 
quantity of compact and firm meal, you shall get, because of 
its rarity, a larger quantity of flour ; and from equal quantities 
of meal you shall often get unequal quantities of flour. Bakers 
often find this to be the case with corn ; and a purchaser will 
pay a different price for the same quantity of wheat in two 
villages not far distant from one another. 

This is a sliglit digression, and not an irrelevant one, as the 

Journey to the Western Islands : — * Their method of clearing their oats from the 
husk is by parching them in the straw. Thus, with the genuine improvidence 
of savages, they destroy that fodder for want of which their cattle may perish. 
Cf. also the Rev. J. L, Buchanan's Travels in the Western Hebrides ^ 1782- 1790, 
p. 103 : — * They bum the straw of the sheaf to make the oats dry for meal.' 

^ * Aromatarius *, From Major's In Quartum, 45th question of the 15th dis- 
tinction, we gather that the * aromatarius ' was the * restaurateur ' or * confec- 
tioner ' who hired out silver-plate for students' breakfasts (* in doctoratu vel in 
alio prandio ' ). About that time, however, glass was beginning to take the place 
of silver, and Major approved the change, since ' glass was quite as clean and 
decent ', and the newly-made doctor could get the use of an excellent service for 
four or five * solidi '. 


following story will show. When my fellow-countryman, David 
Cranston^, was taking his first course of theology^, he had as 
fellow-students and l>osora-friends James Ahnain of Sens*, 
and Peter of Brussels *, one of the order of Preachers, who 
along with him attended the arts class under me. These men 
one day, in the course of a discussion on Founder'*s Day * at 
in the courtyard of the Sorbonne, brought this accusation 
(based on the report of a certain religious) against the com- 
mon people in Scotland, that they were in the habit of using 
oaten bread. This they did, knowing the said Cranston to 
be a man quick of temper, and to the end that they might 
tease him with a kindly joke ; but he strove to repel the 
charge as one that brought a disgrace on his native land. We 
hear besides of a certain Frenchman, who brought this bread 

^ David Cranston was the author of a small work in quarto entitled PosUiones 
pkisicaUs niagistri^ a copy of which is in the University Library, Edinburgh. 
He also wrote additions to the Moralia of J. Almain (1518), to the Questiones 
Morales of Martinus de Magistris (1510), and to the Parva logicalia of Ramirez 
de Villascusa (1520?), copies of which are in the British Museum. There are 
ascribed to him also OrationeSy Votum ad D, Kentigemum and Epistolae, 
In conjunction with Gavin Douglas he compiled the tabula for Major's com- 
mentary on the fourth book of the Sentences. He bequeathed the whole of his 
property to the college of Montacute. The Dictionary of National Biography 
gives us the dates of Cranston's activity ' (fl. 1509- 1526)', and says that he be- 
came bachelor of theology in 1519 and afterwards doctor. From the letter, 
however, by Robertus Senalis, dated ' xiiij. Calendos Decembres Anni MDXVi.', 
which is addressed to Major and is prefixed to the 1521 edition of his In Quar- 
tuffif it appears that Cranston had died before that date : * Consules partim 
tuorum auditorum insignium sed defunctorum memorie inter quos precipui fuerunt 
lacobus Alnuiin Senonen : Dauid Craston [sic] tuus conterraneus : et Petnis 
Bmxellensis, etc' 

^ ' de prima Theologiae licentia foret ' probably means that at that time he 
was studying his first course in theology, after passing in arts. 

' James Almain, French theologian, born at Sens about the middle of the 

fifteenth century. He was in 1512 professor at the college of* Navarre. He 

wrote many works on logic, physics, and theology, the most important of which 

was De autoritate ecclesia^ seu scurorum cotuiliorum earn rcprasentantium, etc, 

contra Th, de Fio, Paris, 1 512, in which he opposes the Ultramontane doctrines 

of De Vio, afterwards better known as Cardinal Cajetan. Almain died in 

* Peter of Brussels ; i.e, Pierre Crockaert, a Dominican friar and scholastic 
philosopher, professor at Paris and licentiate of the Sorbonne : born at Brus- 
sels ; died in 15 14. — Franklin, Diet, des noms latins, 

* * Dies Sorbonicus '. Mr. P. Hume Brown tells us that this answers to our 
Founder's Day.' 


with him to his own country on his return from Britain, and 
showed it about as a monstrosity.^ 

The bread is baked upon a thin circular iron plate, of about 
an ell in diameter. The plate is supported on three feet, 
each of them in two parts, and thus so far raised above the 
flame that the bread, covering the whole surface of it, may be 
perfectly baked. These are the iron utensils of which Froissart 
in his Life of English Edward, the third of that name, makes 
mention ; how the king came upon Thomas Randolph, earl of 
Moray, and the lord Douglas, in a stronghold, and did not 
dare to attack them, and how the Scots were driven on a 
sudden to make bread of meal and water, the which the nobles 
as well as the commoner people (since necessity knows no law) 
began to eat.^ 

Yet another way of preparing their bread is practised at a 
pinch : a flour-paste is spread out and placed near the fire, 
until it is rightly baked. Townsfolk laugh at country- 
folk for this; nevertheless Sacred History makes frequent 
mention of just such bread, under the name of hearth-cakes^. 

^ Cf. iEneas Sylvius, Commentarii Rerum Memorabilium, p. 5. (Frankfort, 

* Cf. Froissart: 'They [the Scots] are ever sure to find plenty of beasts in the 
country that they will pass through. Therefore they carry with them none other 
purveyance but on their horse : between the saddle and the pannel they truss a 
broad plate of metal, out behind the saddle they will have a little sack of oat- 
meal, to the intent that when they have eaten of the sodden flesh, then they lay 
this plate on the fire, and temper a little of the oatmeal, and when the plate is 
hot, they cast off the thin paste thereon, and so make a little cake in the manner 
of a cracknel or biscuit, and that they eat, to comfort withal their stomachs. ' — 
Chronicles^ etc., Bk. i. ch. xix. John Bourchier, Lord Bemers's translation, ed. 
1812 ; but with modernised spelling. I have failed to find in Froissart the 
reference in the text to Randolph and Douglas ; perhaps because I have been 
able to consult only one recension of the Chronicles, The different recensions 
vary a good deal in their contents. 

• * Panis subcineritius '. Cf. the Vulgate version of Gen. xviii. 6 ; Exod. xii. 
39 ; and passim. The ^ord is in frequent use in the Vulgate, but it has no place 
either in dictionaries of classical Latin or in Ducange. From the Itala und 
Vulgata of Ronsch we find, however, that it was not the invention of St. Jerome, 
but bad a place in the Old- Latin and in the Ante-Nicene Latin Fathers. 
' Hearth-cake ' is the rendering of the Douay version in the cases mentioned 
above. The English version takes no heed of the special meaning of the word — 
but translates *cake baken on the coals' (i Kings xix. 6), 'a cake not turned' 
(Hosea vii. 8). 


that is, bread baked under or near the embers. Our country- 
men call it Bannoka — (to Latinise the word of the vulgar). 
Following the Sacred Scriptures we shall call it hearth-cake. 

CHAP. III. — Concerning things thai are lacking in Britain, and 
what the country jwssesses in their stead; and concerning the length 
of the day in that land. 

I HAVE spoken in the last chapter, though not doing more 
than to skim the surface, of those things which Britain 
possesses in abundance. I purpose now to say something of 
what the island lacks. The vine you will nowhere find, nor 
any trace of it ^; though I have read in Bede^ that it was known 
to grow in some parts of the island. Perhaps he is thinking 
of a sourish wine, called by the people verjuice', which is 
produced in the southern parts of the island ; or perhaps in 
his day the grape-vine really did grow there. God has en- 
dowed the Britons with many good gifts that other kingdoms 
lack; but the converse of this is likewise true. On no one 
kingdom has He bestowed every bounty — but to different king- 
doms has granted differing blessings, in such wise that, no one 
finding in himself a full sufficiency, but needing ever another's 
aid, men might learn to be helpers one of another — after 
the apostolic precept, * Bear ye one another's burdens'*. The 
worth of wine God has thus bestowed on the Britons, in 
giving them other merchandise, in exchange for which foreign 
nations carry thither their wine^ In the most barren parts of 

^ Cf. Aeneas Sylvius, as quoted in Mr. P. Hume Brown's Early Trcetftls in 
Scotland^ p. 28. 
^ Hist, Eccl. i. I. 

* * Veriutum * = omphax et omphacium (Migne) ; oil or juice of unripe olives 
or grapes. (^/i0a{ = an unripe grape ; * verjuice * = vert jus). 

* Gal. vi. 2. 

* A favourite reflection with Major. In his In Secundum (1528) chap. 
V. of the 17th distinction, after discussing the comparative salubrity of dif- 
ferent countries, he proceeds : * There is no one who will not call his native 
land the Land of Promise. ... If a country lack some things — well, it abounds 
in others. If the Britons must fetch iheir wines from France, they make repay- 
ment by tin, and wool, and fish, and hides. And this is the good providence of 
God, that no country abounds in all things, to the end that all may mutually be 


the country is a wealth of sheep and oxen, whose hides and 
wool may be exchanged for wine ; but the grape vine in its 
natural kind He did not give, to the end that mortal men 
should confess the omnipotence of God, who needs the help of 
no man : but let men learn that they need the help, as we have 
said, of their brethren — according to that saying of Virgil : — 

* Here com, there grapes come more prosperously ; yonder 
the tree drops her seedlings, and unbidden grasses kindle into 
green. Seest thou not how Tmolus sends scent of saffron, India 
ivory, the soft Sabaeans their spice, but the naked Chalybes steel, 
and Pontus the castor drug, Epirus mares for Elean palms ?^^ 

The Britons further brew from barley a most excellent ale. The making 
They would refuse to drink such ale as is brewed at Paris, 
but to the making of their own they bring no small in- 
genuity. First of all, they put the barley for two or three days 
in water, and, when it has swollen, they remove it, and lay it out 
flat indoors, that it may become moderately dry. Thereafter 
the barley is trodden underfoot by active youths whom they 
summon for the purpose of dancing upon it. Often enough 
the grain is swept together and piled to the height of a foot 
upon the bare ground ; upon this heap too the dancing goes 
on till the inner grain is extruded or shows signs of sprouting. 
The next step is to gather all the grain into a large heap, 
which emits on all sides a powerful odour. It is then dried in 
the manner of oats, being subjected to nine changes of tempera- 
ture, and again swept together. In this condition it is no 
longer barley, but what they call ' braxy'^; whether the change 
operated in it is one of accident or of essence matters not. The 
braxy is then ground in a mill. Many persons in Britain grow 
rich by this means, though they may possess no special skill 
or mechanical contrivance — may have nothing in fact but the 
money to buy a quantity of barley, which they sell to certain 
women ^, who in turn make the braxy into liquor in the foUow- 

^ Georg. i. 54-59 (Mr. Mackairs translation ; Lond. 1889). 

' * Braxium*. Low Lat. * brassare' ; Gael. * bracha', * braich* ; Fr. * brasser* ; 
Eng. * brew '. Cf. * braxy ' mutton ; when it begins to ferment. 

^ Called * brewsters * (braciatrices). * Braseum ordei ', * braseum avenae ', 
occur frequently in the Exchequer Rolls. In 1509, e,g, a quantity of barley was 
delivered to certain women of Edinburgh for ale to be used in the king's house- 
hold, vol. xiii. p. 146. See also ib, p. 540. 


ing way. Using only pure water, either that which is taken from 
a running stream, or rain-water collected in a cistern, they boil 
it, and in a boiling state pour it into a large vessel. Into this 
they pour the braxy, mix the whole together, and lay cloths 
over the vessel that the contents may boil for five or six hours. 
Next, from a small hole in the bottom a long piece of wood, 
by which the vessel is closed, is slightly raised, so that the 
liquid, not the grain, is distilled. The liquor is then received 
into a large vessel, where in Scotland it is once more sub- 
jected to boiling heat. But, for the production of an excellent 
drink, the second boiling — as I know from experience — is of 
the greatest moment. This twice-boiled liquor is then kept 
for thirty hours in other vessels, whence it is gently drawn, 
all care being taken that the lees be left behind. The scum is 
then added to the liquor in those fresh vessels ; for the scum 
is the lees of the old ale, and there is much of it left at the 
bottom. In place of the scum some persons take a branch 
of a young hazeP, and throw it into the liquor, and this 
serves the same purpose as the scum. The ale then rarefies 
in its own vessels, in the manner of must, and bursts through 
the sides ; but after two days it is a wholesome drink, and 
according to the abundance of barley and the paucity of the 
water the drink is strong or, contrariwise, weak. The purity 
of the water is in a large measure ensured by its being boiled, 
as may be seen in the case of ptisane and other distilled waters. 
No one who is accustomed to this beverage will prefer a nor- 
thern wine : it keeps the bowels open, it is nourishing, and it 
quenches thirst. 

From what I have now said of wine and ale, it is plain 
that wine has not the merit of producing a stronger race of 
men. Taking the whole of Christendom, the drinkers of wine 
are not more numerous than the drinkers of ale. Wine is used 
in a small part only of Normandy or Picardy. In Lower 
Germany, in Flanders, in Poland, Ruthenia, Livonia, Prussia, 
Pomerania, in the three divisions of Scandinavia, the western, 
eastern, and southern, the vine does not flourish ; nor yet in 
the neighbouring islands of Britain, Ireland, the Orkneys, and 

^ * circulum coryli tenellae*. The wood of the hazel was used for the divining 
rod. Major, however, does not suggest a magical intention here. 


others still more northern (of which I shall speak further) — 
which, taken together, make up a half of Christendom. The 
vine in fact is found in barely one-half of the world. The same 
is true of that part of the equator beyond Sarmatia^ Tartary, 
and such regions as these ; and of the neighbourhood likewise of 
the antarctic circle and antarctic pole. From all this "^tis plain 
enough that Britain cannot claim the vine ; but she has another 
wholesome drink brewed of barley, oats, and wheat ; and, thus 
furnished, it follows of necessity that though the vine be 
wanting, she has flute-players and whistlers, to quote the 
Philosopher upon the Scythians in his Posteriora^. Being 
destitute of the vine, it follows a Jbrttori that the Britons 
have not the orange, the olive, the fig, and the rest of fruits 
like these — without all which we can make a good shift to 
live. And, to say the truth, we could dispense with wine tooj 
but for the consecration of the Holy Blood of Christ, for which 
but little wine is enough. 

Treating of the division of the seasons in Britain, some The seasons 
writers have made the longest working day to have eighteen *" B"^in« 
hours, and the shortest winters day but six ; but there is not 
much weight in this observation, since the island, as we have 
already said, is of a considerable length, and a small part 
of the land towards the north will show greater variation of 
time and season than an equal part near the Equator. In 
Maidens'* Castle,^ or Edinburgh, the longest working day is of 

^ ' . . . et per consequens, licet non sint vites, stat esse sibilatores seu tibicines.' 
The reference is to Book i. ch. xiii. § 1 1 of the Analytica Poslertora, where 
Aristotle is treating of demonstrative proof, and quotes, as rb toO 'Apaxdfxndos, 
this example of a far-fetched reason: 'Similar to this are far-fetched reasons, 
as that of Anacharsis, who said there were no flute-players in Scjthia because 
there were no vines.' Aristotle says nothing about ' sibilatores*, which makes it 
probable that Major quoted from memory — and indeed he varies the form of the 
argument. Aristotle says the Scythians had no flute-players because they had 
no vines ; Major says we have no vines, and therefore we have flute-players. 

' Castrum Puellarum \ The * Edin * in the Gaelic Dun-Edin (Welsh Caer- 
Eiddin) 'defies', so I am assured by Professor Kuno Meyer, ' all explanation 
from Celtic', and it is commonly said, that it is really the Anglo-Saxon name 
Eadwine. * Eadwinesburh ', however, would have given ' Edinjburgh * ; 'for 
the genitive s is never lost in such derivations '. If Edinburgh, then, is con- 
nected with Eadwine, it must be ' as a comparatively late translation of the 
Gaelic Dun-Edin'. Whatever may be the derivation of * Edinburgh', ' Castrum 
Puellarum ' is certainly a false translation of some form of the original name. 


eighteen hours, and in winter this is reduced, to one of six hours 
only. But further north you shall find the longest day to have 
nineteen hours, the shortest but five. There indeed, or in the 
neighbouring islands, that saying of JuvenaFs is made good : 
Et minima contentos node Brvtannos ^. In summer the nights of 
the north have more light, since the sun declines but a small 
way below the horizon. Two of the islands are called Sky and 
Luys — that is, Twilight and Light — because the nights of 
summer are there but a kind of twilight. I am not forgetting 
that in some pcuts of the world one half of the year is night, 
the other half, day. But that is not the case with Scotland. 
Nor would I have you believe Aeneas Sylvius (though I name 
him with respect) where he makes the winter day of Scot- 
land to be but two or three hours in length, and therefore ^ finds 
it to be greatly shorter than at Rome. That he said merely 
in strong hyperbole ^. At York the days of winter are longer 

The * Maidens* * may have had its origin, as the late Dr. Robert Chambers 
thought, in a * Mai Dun', which would represent a Celtic * Maghdiin '=*dun 
[or fort] of the plain *. The Marquis of Bute, in a letter to the Times of 
February 25, 1891, conjectures that in the course of time the belief arose that the 

* Edin ' was derived from the Irish saint Edana, a nun, who in the Arthurian 
legend is stated to have established churches and schools in some of the principal 
fortresses, of which Edinburgh was one, lying in the track of King Arthur. 
The Irish, he remarks, had the habit of prefixing * Mo * = * my * to the names of 
their saints, in sign of affectionate respect ; hence Edana became Afodana (in 
Cornish ModweHna)\ and her churches in Galloway, Maidenkirks, Medanburgh, 
on English tongues, easily slipped into the more intelligible Maidenburgh, which 
then became Latinized into * Castrum Puellarum \ Dr. Skene, on the other 
hand, in his Four Aticient Books of Wales ^ vol. i. pp. 85, 86, calls this nun of 
the Arthurian legend * Saint Monenna *. For Major's own derivation of * Edin- 
burgh ', from * Heth,' king of the Picts, cf. ch. xiii. of this Book. The foim 

* edenesburg *, it may be added, is found in a charter of David i. printed in the 
Registrum de Dunfemielyny p. 15. Dalrymple in his version (1596) of Leslie's 
History writes * Madne Castle '. Cf. Father Cody's note /// loco, p. 361. 

^ Juv. ii. 161. 

' * Sed tamen ', which does not seem to make sense. I therefore venture to 
translate * therefore *. 

• Cf. what Major says about Aeneas Sylvius (afterwards Pope Pius the Second 
— he is the only Pope who ever visited Scotland), in his /;/ Secundum chap. v. 
of the 17th distinction (1528): * Aeneas Sylvius says that when he was in 
Scotland the winter day was but three hours long ; but, saving his rever- 
ence, he says what is not true [facit commenticium] — (I speak not against the 
supreme pontiff, but against Aeneas Sylvius before his elevation to the pontifi- 
cate) . . . but perhaps a man may be pardoned because he finds a variation of 
three hours between Rome and the promontory of Berwick. * See Aeneas Sylvius, 
Com, Rer, M,y p. 5. 


than in Edinburgh ; in London they are longer than at York, 
and in the southern part of Hampshire again they are longer 
than in London. So that in the matter of length of day in 
Britain there is no small variety. 

CHAP. IV. — Of those who have possessed Britain, hofif the peoples 
of Wales are Aremoric Britons , and the Scots are Irish Britons, and 
of the threefold language of the Britons. 

I FIND in Britain first of all one kingdom, that namely of The Aremori< 
the Britons, and already of old that people had occupation of P~P^^ 
Wales, and they speak the primitive tongue, and the Britons 
of Aremorica in Gaul understand this tongue. This is a proof 
that the Britons had their origin from the Aremoricans; so much 
must be admitted, or the converse of it. Following the Britons, 
the Picts invaded the island, and made of it two kingdoms — 
of the Picts, namely, and the Britons. Following the Pictish 
invasion came that of the Irish Scots ; and so it came about 
that in the island there were three kingdoms and three kings. 
Now the Picts and Scots began to vex the original Britons 
with frequent invasion ; and when these could no longer bear 
up against them, they besought the Romans to help them ; 
and when at last the Romans grew weary and refused to give 
further help, the Britons betook them to the Saxons ; and 
when Hengist the Saxon answered their prayer, seven kings, 
as will be shortly seen, landed in the island with intent to 
found kingdoms there. So that there came to be altogether ten 
kingdoms in the island, — and that too in the days of Bede, — 
of which two, those of the Picts and Scots, were, as one may say, 
large, and seven, those of the English, I am inclined to think, 
were small, both in extent and in resources. The third kingdom 
was Wales. At the present day, however, there are, and for a 
long time have been, to speak accurately, two kingdoms in the 
island : the Scottish kingdom namely, and the English. For those 
seven kingdoms, before the conquest of Wales, were united into 
one kingdom of England, and thereafter Wales was made sub- 
ject to the English. So that the whole part of the island 
which is held by the king of the southern island is called the 



kingdom of England, and the rest is the kingdom of Scotland. 
Yet all the inhabitants are Britons — a fact that I think is 
established by what has been said. I will try, however, in a 
few words, to make good my contention. Either the original 
inhabitants of the island alone are Britons, and therefore the 

That the Scots dwellers in Wales at this present will be the only Britons, 
against all common use of language ; or the English, who are 
descended from the Saxons, and others of foreign origin, but 
are natives of the island, are Britons ; and in this way it will 
behove us to speak of the Scots born in the island as Britons also, 
and by like reasoning we will say that the Picts too are Britons 
in respect that they were bom in the island ; just as we ought 
to ^ call those men Gauls that were born in Gaul. I say, there- 
fore, that all men bom in Britain are Britons, seeing that on 
any other reasoning Britons could not be distinguished from 
other races ; since it is possible to pass from England to Wales, 
and from Scotland by way of England to Wales, dryshod, 
there would otherwise be no distinction of races. This not- 
withstanding, and though I reckon both Scots and Picts to 
be alike Britons, yet to make some distinction between them, 
when I come to speak of the wars that they have waged with 
the Britons, I shall call them Picts and Scots and not Britons ; 
for in this matter I approve the opinion, based upon the 
speech of the common people, of the philosopher in his second 
book De Caelo^ where he says : * Our speech should be that of 
the multitude, but our thought the thought of the few ** ^. 

The speech of You must know further, that there are in the island three 

the Britons. iii/. 

different tongues, and the speaker of no one of these under- 
stands another. The first of these, in the southern parts, is 
the Welsh tongue ; this is in use by the Britons who speak 
^ the British language*. The second is more widely spread 
throughout the island, and is in use by the Wild Scots 
and the island Scots ; and this is the Irish tongue, though it 
may be called broken Irish. The third tongue of this island, 
and the chief, is the English, which is spoken by the English 
and by the civilised Scots. 

^ F. * oportebat * ; Orig. better, * oportebit '. 

-^ Cf. Bk. II. ch. iv. 

• * Britones britonisantes ' ; cf. the French * Breton bretonnant *. 



CHAP. V. — Of the situation of Britain, that is, of England and Scot- 
land, and of their rivers, and, in special, of' the wealth of London, 

Into two kingdoms then, and under two kings, all Britain is 
now divided. The English king possesses the southern part. 
On all sides save the north the ocean is its boundary. The 
Isle of Wight, fifteen leagues in length, in the ocean, is part Wight. 
of this domain ; likewise two islands of small importance, 
Guernsey and Jersey,^ some four or five leagues in length, situ- 
ated between England and Normandy. The southern boun- 
dary of Scotland adjoins the northern boundary of England, 
or indeed coincides with it. Six leagues to the east the river 
known in the vulgar tongue as the Tweed severs England Tweed, 
from Scotland, so that, from one of its banks. Englishmen can 
fish, from the other Scots. After a course of six leagues, the 
Tweed enters Scotland ; not that^ it flows from England into 
Scotland, but contrariwise. By the monastery of Kelso it re- 
ceives the tributary Teviot, whence comes the nanie of Teviot- 
dale. Scotland extends southwards three miles beyond the 
monastery of Kelso. Its western boundary is the river Sol way, 
where the sands are full of peril. The Solway falls into the 
Western Ocean, and for a long space separates Scotland from 
England. Beyond this boundary the Scots possess Red Kirk ^, 
and beyond Red Kirk is a debateable land scarcely one Debatcable 
league in breadth. This land is without inhabitants, inas- ^" * 
much as the Scots aver that it pertains to them, and the Eng- 
lish, on their part, say the same. Three leagues beyond the 
Solway the English have the small fortified city of Carlisle. 
The boundaries have a breadth of some five or six leagues ; but 
that region is indifferently cultivated, by reason of Scottish and 

1 Orig. * Darsi & larsi \ 

' F. has *quia*, and *quia* is constantly used for 'quod' in ecclesiastical 
Latin, e,^. St. Augustine ; but Orig. reads * quod '. 

• • rubrum templum '. There is a * Red Kirk * to the west of the Kirile (as I 
am told by Mr. R. B. Armstrong) in a very correct MS. map (1590) in the British 
Museum — * A Piatt of the opposite Border of Scotland to the "West Marches of 
England '. Red Kirk was in the possession of George Grame, a younger son of 
Richard of Netherby and grandson of William Grame, alias Long Will, chief 
of the clan. 



English robbers and inveterate thieves. On the eastern Scottish 
marches by the shore, and in Teviotdale where it adjoins that 
region, and in the part to the west by the river Solway, the 
boundary line is of the clearest ; but between Teviotdale and 
the Solway it remains doubtful, and is matter for contention 
between the Scots and the Englishmen. 
The rivers of In England there are, further, three chief rivers, the first of 

which, the Severn, or, by its British name, Habem, is in mid 
Wales. This river has its source to the east, making towards 
Shrewsbury ; afterwards, flowing southwards, by Bridgenorth, 
Worcester, and Gloucester, it turns westward by Bristol, and 
in some parts is the boundary between England from Wales. 

The second river is the Humber, which winds its way towards 
the southern part of Yorkshire ; into it flow Trent and Ouse, 
making of the Humber a mighty stream, who then carries 
them with him into the Northern Ocean. 

The third river is the Thames, which takes part of its name 
from an Oxfordshire streamlet, and flows by London. Tis 
a river of no great size, save when it is increased by the flow- 
ing tide. In Britain you need not look for a large river — ^and 
the reason is this : that its streams flow across the island — 
following not its length, but its breadth, which is not great. 
The sea on one side or other is at hand, and soon swallows 
them. For in their course rivers tend to join one with another, 
and lose their old names as they receive tributary streams. Not 
otherwise does the Metro increase — not otherwise the king of 
European rivers, the Danube himself^ ; for in his long course the 
Danube receives the waters of sixty large streams. In Britain, 
however, you shall find rivers equal to the Mame, or the Seine 
before its union with the Mame ; only, as there is in parts but 
small depth of water, they are not well fitted for navigation. 
Full of fish they are, and fair to see, since they flow for the 
most part over pebbles and sand. The Thames at London is 
three times as large as the Seine at Paris, because further up 

^ The Metro (Metaurus), a river in Umbria, has a course of no more than 40 
or 50 miles, and is famous only for the battle between Hasdrubal and C. CI. 
Nero B.C. 207. Major takes the Metaurus as a type of small and unimportant 
rivers, the Danube as a typ>e of the greatest. Silius Italicus (viii. 450) describes 
the Metaurus as a mountain torrent rather than a river. 


even than London Bridge the ocean rushes, under agitation 
of the moon ; and so it happens that the largest vessels in 
Europe can make their way to London Bridge. Londinum is Ixindoiu 
called by the Britons London, and is the capital of England, 
and of all the cities of Britain the largest and the fairest in its 
situation. There shall you find merchant vessels from every 
part of Europe. The city is adorned with a right noble 
bridge, on which are houses richly built, and likewise a 
church. One mile beyond the city westward you reach West- 
minster, that is, the Western Monastery. The king^s palace 
is there, likewise monuments of kings, and the supreme courts 
of justice in constant session. Between the monastery and 
the city, on the banks of the river, are the palaces of the 
bishops and nobles ; while near them are the dwellings of 
the handicraftsmen — and so the whole city in all its length 
lies along the river. Three miles eastward, likewise on the 
Thames, is Greenwich, the common dockyard of the kings 
of England. There you shall find ships (which they call 
* barges '') in great numbers, ascending the river to London, 
and descending to its seaport — not drawn, as in the Seine, by 
horses, but either answering to the action of the wind, or 
simply to the flow and ebb of the tide without wind ^. Every 
year is chosen one of a craft, opulent and up in years, as 
prefect. Him they call mayor of the city, and before him is 
borne a sword, in symbol of justice. Of the royal pr^roga- jj^^ j^^ ^^ ^^ 
tives it is the king^s Justice that falls to his share. If there the City, who 
shall chance a scarcity of provisions in the city, it falls to him magistrate of 
to send to foreign countries and find a remedy for such scarcity. ^® peop^®- 
In point of population I place London before Rouen, the 
second city of botli Gauls. In wealth it surpasses Rouen by 
much, for three things go chiefly to the enriching of this city : 
the supreme courts of justice ; the almost constant presence of 
the king, who at his own expense provides for a great house- 
hold and supplies to them all their food ; and — what is the 
strongest element of all — a great concurrence of merchants. Yet, 

^ Cf. Dunbar's description in his * London, thou art, etc. * : — 

* Where many a swanne doth swymme with wyngis fare ; 
Where many a barge doth saile, and row with are.* 

c— Ed. Scof. Text Soc,, p. 227. 



[book 1. 

of England : 

in the judgment of some Englishmen — and this is my own 
judgment too — Paris has a population three times greater than 
that of London ; but I do not reckon the wealth of Paris to 
be three times greater than the wealth of London \ There 
are to be found on the Thames three or four thousand tame 

Of swans, swans ; but though I have seen many swans there, 1 did not 
count them ; 1 merely report what I heard. The second city 

York. is York, the seat of an archbishop, and fifty leagues distant from 
Scotland. In circuit it is great, but not in population or in wealth ; 
in respect of these matters it falls much behind London. It 
has no duke apart from the king, nor a resident archbishop, by 

Norwich, whose favour the city might be enriched *. The third city is Nor- 
wich, an episcopal see, in which is made that kind of cloth which 
is called * ostade'^, both double and single. Other cities there 
are and wealthy, such as Bristol ; Coventry — it has no river, 
and that is worth noting, but "'tis a goodly city ; Lincoln, of 
renown in old days, and many other cities and villages \ 

There are, further, in England, two illustrious universities : 
of which one — I mean Oxford — is famous even among foreign- 
ers. Into it, as I have heard, the kings of England dare not 
set foot, lest they should meet with insult, on account of in- 
solence which was offered to a certain holy virgin by one of the 
kings of the English *. In ancient times this university has pro- 

* See Appendix, on the Population of Medieval Cities. 
' The archbishop's palace, demolished during the civil war of the 17th century, 

was at Cawood, ten miles south of York. The last duke of York was Henry 
Tudor (1491-1509), afterwards Henry viii., when the dukedom merged in the 
crown. The Plantagenet dukedom of York (i 385-1461) also merged in the 
crown. From 1461 to 1491 there was no duke of York. 

' From Worstead, a village— once a manufacturing and market town — 
twelve miles north-east of Norwich. Some say that the Flemings first estab- 
lished here the manufacture of woollen twists and stuffs, but the foreign 
immigration is doubted by Rye (Popular History of Norfolk), The trade moved 
to Norwich in the reign of Richard II., and the town of Worstead declined. — 
National Gazetteer, A magnificent Church was raised at Worstead 'by the 
liberality of the merchants who founded here the "worsted" trade*. — Rye*s 
Popular History of Norfolk, * Ostada panni species ex lana subtiliore context!, 
non unius usus, idem quod nostris Estame ; unde Anglis Voosted stockings, 
tibialia sic contexta, Gall, bas d 'estame. Haud infrequens nostratibus vox 
Ostade.' — Ducange ; who quotes a book as * bound in ostada '. 

* Miss Norgate, in her England under the Angevin Kings^ vol. i. p. 43, tells 
the story, and gives a reference to William of Malmesbury, Gesta Pontif lib. iv. 
§ 178. In the fifth chapter of Mr. James Parker's The Early History of Oxford^ 



duced philosophers and theologians of renown — such as Alex- 
ander Hales, Richard Middleton, John Duns, that subtle doctor, 
Ockam, Adam of Ireland, Robert Holkot, Bokinham, Eliphat, 
Climito Langley, John Roditon, an English monk, Suiset, a 
most ingenious mathematician, Hentisbery, a very skilful dia- 
lectician. Strode, Bravardinus, and many more ^. Famous 
colleges there are too in that university, founded by kings, 
queens, bishops, and princes, and from their revenues provi- 
sion is made for the education of many scholars, whom at Paris 

772-1100, printed for the Oxford Historical Society, 1885, there is an account 
of St. Frideswide's Nunnery, with a full discussion of the various legends that 
surround the memory]of its founder. I quote'Mr. Parker's translation of William 
of Malmesbury's narrative: *[Frideswide], the daughter of a king, despised 
marriage with a king, consecrating hei virginity to the Lord Christ. But he, 
when he had set his mind on marrying the virgin, and found all his entreaties 
and blandishments of no avail, determined to make use of forcible means. 
When Frideswide discovered this, she determined upon taking flight into the 
woods. But neither could her hiding-place be kept secret from her lover, nor 
was there want of courage to hinder his following the fugitive. The virgin 
therefore found her way . . . into Oxford. When in the morning her anxious 
lover hastened thither, the maiden, now despairing of safety by flight, and also, 
by reason of her weariness, being unable to proceed further, invoked the aid of 
God for herself, and punishment upon her persecutor. And now, as he with 
his companions approached the gates of the city, he suddenly became blind, 
struck by the hand of Heaven. And when he had admitted the fault of his 
obstinacy, and Frideswide was besought by his messengers, he received back his 
sight as suddenly as he had lost it. Hence there has arisen a dread amongst all 
the kings of England which has caused them to beware of entering and abiding 
in that city, since it is said to be fraught with destruction, every one of the kings 
declining to test the truth for himself by incurring the danger.' Miss Norgate 
adds, as to this ' dread amongst the kings of England ' : * It must be supposed 
that the councils held at Oxford under ^Ethelred and Cnut met outside the walls : 
we cannot tell whether any countenance was given to the legend by the circum 
stances of Harold Harefoot's death ; but from that time forth [1040] we hear of 
DO more royal visits to Oxford till II33>' 

^ Alexander Hales, surnamed * doctor irrefragabilis *, entered the order of 
St. Francis, was a voluminous author, and in theology the master of Duns Scotus. 
He died in 1245. 

Richard Middleton or de Media Villa, also a Franciscan, taught theology 
at Oxford and Paris, He died in 1300. Some of his works, including a com- 
mentary on the Master of the Sentences, were printed at Venice in 1509. 

John Duns, or Scotus, * doctor subtilis *, was the founder of the Scotist school 
of theology adopted by the Franciscans. There has been much controversy 
r^arding the birthplace and native country of Duns, the year of his birth (1265 
or 1274), and the college at Oxford to which he belonged. As to his birth- 
place, however, compare Major (Bk. iv. ch. xvi.), where he speaks of Duns 

24 • JOHN MAJOR^S fflSTORY [book i. 

we call ^ bursars \ Some colleges are of a reputation beyond 
the others, the new college of the blessed Magdalene, and a 
college founded by a bishop of Winchester (who was once a 

as ' bom at Duns, a village eight miles distant from England, and separated from 
my own home by seven or eight leagues only \ His principal theological work 
was the Quaestion^s in libros Sententiarum, known as the Opus Oxoniense, The 
traditional date of his death is 1308. His complete works were published by 
Wadding in 12 vols, fol., Lyons 1639. 

William Ockham, 'doctor invincibilis ' or ' singularis ', a Franciscan, con- 
demned for nominalism and excommunicated. He wrote commentaries on the 
Sentences, printed at Lyons in 1495, also a treatise on the power of the emperor 
and the pope, in which the former is exalted at the expense of the latter. He 
died unabsolved from his excommunication, it is said in 1347. 

Adam of Ireland, a Franciscan, wrote Quaestiones quodlibetales and a commen- 
tary on the four books of the Sentences. His date is about 1320. Cf. Biblio- 
theca Britannica Hibemica and J. A. Fabricius's Bibliotheca Latina^ under 


Robert Holkot, of the order of St. Dominic, a follower of William Ockham, 
a doctor of Oxford, and a liberal interpreter of Scripture. He wrote many 
works on Scripture (Z>^ Studio Scriptume) and the several books* thereof. In 
philosophy he was a rigid Peripatetic. He died of the plague in 1349. 

John Bokingham, a doctor of theology, who expounded the Master of the Sen- 
tences in the schools at Oxford. He was the author of Opus acutissimum in iv, 
libros Senientiarum (printed at Paris in 1505), a copy of which is in the Bodleian. 
By Pits, under date 1399, he is identified, doubtfully, with the bishop of Lincoln 
of that name. 

Robert Eliphat, a Franciscan or Augustinian, studied at Oxford, and obtained 
his doctorate at Paris. Pits says ' he never made an end of writing on the Sen- 
tences *. He flourished during the reign of Edward in. 

Climiton Langley was skilful in astronomy, as well as in theology, and 
wrote on both these subjects. He flourished about 1350. 

John Rodington, a Lincolnshire man, became a Franciscan, and was provin- 
cial of his order in England. Pits quotes Major as his authority for thestate- 
ment that Rodington taught philosophy and theology at Oxford before going to 
Paris. He wrote numerous works on the Sentences, was a strenuous opponent 
of the Immaculate Conception, and died at Bedford in 1348. 

Roger Suiset, according to Pits, who quotes this passage from Major, was 
commonly called the * Calculator'. Mr. Brewer (Monumenta Franciscana^ 1858, 
p. xliv) says that Suiset's profound mathematical researches 'commanded the 
praises of Leibniz '. He was a Cistercian. His Insolubilia was printed at 
Oxford about 1483. He wrote also on the Sentences. His date was about 1350. 

William Hentisbery or Heytesbury was, says Pits, a man of acute intellect but 
contentious mind, and had no taste for anything but logical subtleties, in the 
discussion of which he spent his life. He wrote a treatise on * De Sensu 
Composito*. Major is quoted as the authority for Hentisbery having taken 
his master's degree at Oxford. He lived in the reign of Richard ii. 

Ralph Strode, a native of Caermarthen, a famous musician and poet, a scholar, 
and a wit. He wrote on logic and theology, was famous for his controversy with 


fellow of New college ^). Each of these colleges has a hundred 
bursars, of whom some give themselves to the study of divinity 
and the hearing of lectures, and others continuously to letters. 

There is yet another university, that of Cambridge, somewhat Cambridge, 
inferior to Oxford, both in the number of its scholars and in 
reputation for letters. It too possesses very fair foundations 
of kings and queens. One of these, and indeed the chief, is 
King'^s college ^, worthy to be placed along with New college in 
Oxford. There is too the Queen'^s college * (that is, founded 
by a queen), a very fair building, and the King'*s hall*, in 
revenues and in bursars not inferior to Queen^s college. An- 
other college is Christ's * (in which I formerly heard lectures for 
three months — for this reason, that I found it to be situated 
within the parish of Saint Andrew). A certain convent for 

Wicliffe, and was probably author of an Itinerary to the Holy Land. He was a 

a fnend of Chaucer, who dedicated to him and to Gower his 'Troilus and 

Creseide ': 

* O moral Gower, this book I direct 

To thee and to the philosophical Strode.' 

There is a valuable contribution to our knowledge of Strode in the Introduction 
to the edition of the fourteenth century poem Pearl recently issued by the Rev. 
Israel Gollancz. London : 1891. Mr. GoUancz thinks it possible that Strode 
may yet be proved to be the author of that poem. He flourished about 1370. 

Bravardinus. Thomas Bradwardine, ' doctor profundus ', commentator on the 
Sentences, c. 1350, of whom Chaucer writes : 

' As can the holy doctour S. Austin 
Or Boece or the bishop Bradwirdyn.* 

' The foundation stone of Magdalen college was laid in 1473. It was 
founded by William Waynflete, bishop of Winchester. Waynflete was educated 
at Winchester college, and probably at New college, Oxford, but his name is 
not among the fellows. 

* King's college was founded in 1441 by Henry vi. Queens* college was 
founded in 1446 by Margaret of Anjou, queen of Henry vi., and ' re-founded' 
in 1465 by Elizabeth Woodville, queen of Edward iv. The name of the college 
is therefore generally printed * Queens* * (not * Queen's *) college. 

' King's hall was the nucleus of Trinity collie. Cf. Willis and Clark's 
Architectural History y etc., vol. i. p. Ixxv. 

* Christ's college, an extension of God's House (first founded in 1439), which 
had been transferred to its new site in St. Andrew's Street by King Henry vi. 
It had its name changed in 1505, on its re-endowment by the countess of Rich- 
mond and Derby, mother of Henry vii. — Willis and Clark's Architectural 
History y etc., vol. i. pp. Ivi., Ixx. As Major calls it Christ's college, it is clear 
that his history was written after 1505; but his residence there was certainly 
before he went to Paris in 1493. Cf. Introduction to this volume. 


women ^ was changed into Jesus college, by the counsel of a 
most learned and worthy man, Stubbs^, a doctor in theology. 
Those women refused to keep their enclosure, and added to 
their own a society of students of the other sex ; and this 
was a scandal to men of serious mind. Wherefore, when 
these had been turned out, and other foundations for the 
common life had been prepared, there were admitted in their 
place poor students, who should give themselves to letters 
and the practice of virtue, and bear fruit in their season. 
This expulsion of women I approve. For if, from being 
nurseries of religion, these houses become nurseries of prosti- 
tution', honest foundations must be put into their place. There 
are besides many other colleges in which lectures are given 
daily. The course of study in the arts is in these univer- 
sities of seven or eight years before the taking of the Master'^s 
degree. A Chancellor (whom in Paris they call a Rector) — a 
man always of grave repute — is every year elected from the 
highest faculty*. The Chancellor of Oxford was Thomfiis 
Bradwardine. Two Proctors are chosen yearly ; in their hands 
are all the functions of justice — for their authority extends over 
every layman in the city. And though in number the laymen 
be equal to or more than the scholars, as a matter of fact they 
dare not rise against them ; for they would be crushed forth- 
with by the scholars. In either university you shall find four 
thousand or five thousand scholars; they are all of them no 

^ The nunnery of St. Rhadegund. In 1497, and through the exertion of John 
Alcock, bishop of Ely, the nunnery was suppressed by royal patent, in conse- 
quence of the conduct of the nuns, which * brought grave scandal on their pro- 
fession, and in the reign of Henry vii. not more than two remained on the 
foundation*. Cf. Mr. J. B. Mullinger's University of Cambridge from the 
Earliest Times ^ etc,^ pp. 320, 321 ; Cambridge, 1873. 

^ Stubbs has not been clearly identified. There was an Edmund Stubbs, D.D., 
master of Gonville hall in 1503, who died in 1 514. Cf. Cooper's Athen, Cantab, 
vol. i. p. 16. From Bliss's ed. of Wood's Athena Oxon, vol. ii. col. 694, s» v. 
JOHN MORGAN, we leam that in 1506 Mr. Lawrence Stubbys S.T.B. was pre- 
sented by the abbot and convent of Oseney to the vicarage of Cudlington on the 
death of John Morgan. Stubbs's connection with Oseney, and Major's intimate 
knowledge of that House, make it possible, if we admit that kind of intercourse 
between the universities, that this Stubbs is the ' learned and worthy man ' of 
the text. 

' Cf. what Major says, Bk. I v. ch. x. of the disorders in the nunnery of North 

* * the highest faculty,' i,e. theology. 


longer boys ; they carry swords and bows, and in large part 
are of gentle birth. In the colleges however they do not give 
themselves to the study of grammar. 

In England every village, be it only of twelve or thirteen 
houses, has a parish church ^ ; their places of worship are 
most richly adorned, and in the art ojf music they stand, in 
my opinion, first in all Europe. For though in France or 
in Scotland you may meet with some musicians of such 
absolute accomplishment as in England, yet "'tis not in such English 
numbers ^. Their churchmen are of an honest walk and con- musicians. 
versation, and should they be taken in adultery or fornication, 
yea, though they were beneficed priests, from their place they 
are compelled to go. In courage, in prudence, in all virtues of 
this nature. Englishmen do not think themselves the lowest of 
mankind ; and if, in a foreign land, they happen upon a man of 
parts and spirit, ^'tis pity,^ they say, ^he's not an Englishman \ 

CHAP. VI. — Of the boundaries of Scotland y its cities, tonms and 
villages ; of its customs in war, and in the church ; of its abundance 
ofjishy its liarbours, woods, islands, etc. 

In the old days the Scots and Picts had as their southern 
boundary that Thirlwall wall which Severus* built at the 

* Cf. Bk. III. ch. vi., where Major says that every village, 'etiamsi duntaxat 
XX. sit ignium \ has its parish church. 

* Cf. Erasmus, Praise of Folly, pp. loi, 102, ed. Basil. 1676 : — * It seems as if 
nature, just as she has implanted in every mortal his own peculiar share of self- 
esteem, has done the same by each nation, and almost by every city. And thus 
it comes that Britons claim for their peculium beauty of person, music, and good 
feeding. The Scots plume themselves on their noble descent, on kindred with 
their royal house, and, I must add, upon their power of splitting a hair in argu- 
ment. The French assume the monopoly of fine manners; the Parisians in 
particular think that none may even approach them in a mastery of theological 
science. The Italians assert a special supremacy in polite letters and eloquence. 
And thus has every nation the happiness to apply this flattering unction, that it 
alone is not a barbarian. ' As to the condition of musical culture in Britain at 
the present day as compared with the rank of our country in that respect in the 
sixteenth century, it is worth noting that Mr. Rubinstein has just expressed his 
opinion that while in Germany 50 per cent, of the population know good music, 
and in France as many as 16 per cent., in England the percentage is not more 
than two. 

' Thirlwall is on the line of Hadrian's Wall. It is said that the wall was here 
* thirled*, ue. bored through, by the Caledonians. Cf. Dr. Bnct^s Handbook, 
p. 188 (ed. 1885) ; and see footnote on p. 60 of this volume. 



[book I. 

The cities of 
Scotland : 

A University. 


A third. 

river Tyne ; but at the present day the southern boundary of 
Scotland coincides with the northern boundary of England. 
The chief city in Scotland is Edinburgh. It has no river 
flowing through it, but the Water of Leith, half a league 
^distant, might at great expense be diverted for the purpose of 
cleansing the city ; but, after all, the city itself is distant from 
the ocean scarce a mile. Froissart compares Edinburgh to 
Tournay or Valenciennes; for a hundred years, however, the 
kings of the Scots have had their residence almost constantly 
in that city^. Near to Edinburgh — ^at the distance of a mile — 
is Leith, the most populous seaport of Scotland. On the descent 
thither is a small village, very prosperous, inhabited by weavers 
of wool — which gives its name to the best cloths in Scotland ^ 
Then there is Saint Andrews — where is a university, to which 
no one has as yet made any magnificent gift, except James 
Kennedy, who founded one college, small indeed, but fair to 
look at and of good endowment. Another university is in the 
north, that of Aberdeen, in which is a noble college founded 
by a bishop, Elphinston by name, who was also the founder of 
the university. There is, besides, the city of Glasgow, the seat 
of an archbishop, and of a university poorly endowed, and not 
rich in scholars *. This notwithstanding, the church possesses 
prebends many and fat; but in Scotland such revenues are 
enjoyed in absentia just as they would be in praesentia^ — a 
custom which I hold to be destitute at once of justice and 

^ ' For Edinburgh, though the king kept there his chief residence, and that it 
is Paris in Scotland, yet it is not like Tournay or Valenciennes, for in all the 
town there is not four thousand [but read for this, in the best editions of 
Froissart, four hundred] houses; therefore it behoved these lords to be 
lodged about in villages, as at Dunfermline, Queensferry [Quineffery], Keko 
[Cassuelle], Dunbar, Dalkeith*. — Bk. ii. ch. ccxxviii, Buchon*s ed. vol. ii. 
p. 314 ; Bourchier's ed. vol. ii. p. 7. 

' The words * admodum opulenta * would apply to Broughton — but hardly so 
the description, as compared with other villages, of ' angusta'. Besides, though 
there was a cloth known as * bartane * or * bertane * (cf. Accounts of the Lord 
High Treasurer of Scotland^ 1473-1498, pp. 188, II9, 231, 400), that vras a 
linen cloth which took its name from Bretagne (see Littre, s,v, bretagne). 
The village in question may have been on the site of Picardy Place or Greenside, 
a resort of French weavers 170 years later — ^but it remains unidentified. On the 
history of Broughton there is much to be learned from the History of the Barony 
of Broughton^ by John Mackay, Edin. 1867. 

• The dates of foundation of the universities of St. Andrews, Glasgow, and 
Aberdeen, are, respectively, 141 1, 1450, 1494. 


common sense. I look with no favour on this multitude of 
universities ; for just as iron sharpeneth iron, so a large number 
of students together will sharpen one another'^s wits^. Yet 
in consideration of the physical features of the country, this 
number of universities is not to be condemned. Saint Andrews, 
the seat of the primate of Scotland, possesses the first university ; 
Aberdeen is serviceable to the northern inhabitants, and Glasgow 
to those of the west and the south. 

There is, in addition, the town of Perth, commonly called Saint 
John or Saint John^s town*, the only walled town in Scotland. 
Now if towns in general had even low walls, I should approve 
of it, as a means of restraining the robbers and thieves of the 
realm ^ The Scots do not hold themselves to need walled cities ; 
and the reason of this may be, that they thus get them face to 
face with the enemy with no delay, and build their cities, as The prompti- 
it were, of men. If a force twenty thousand strong were to sroL^n^* 
invade Scotland at dawn, a working day of twelve hours would diving back 
scarcely pass before her people were in conflict with the enemy. 
For the nearest chief gathers the neighbouring folk together, 
and at the first word of the presence of the foe, each man before 
mid-day is in arms, for he keeps his weapons about him, mounts 
his horse, makes for the enemy's position, and, whether in order 
of battle or not in order of battle, rushes on the foe, not seldom 
bringing destruction on himself as well as on the invader, — but 
it is enough for them if they compel him to retreat. And should 

^ Cf. what Major says in his * Propositio ad Auditores * in his In Quartum 
Stntentiarum : * For truth is discovered through disputation and the exercise of 
men's wits, and doubts are resolved by the meeting of various minds, when other- 
wise the formation of opinion can be naught but a journey through dark waters 
and mist.' In the same connection he quotes with approval the line, * Laudamus 
veteres, sed nostris utimur annis.* 

^ Cf. Hector Boethius, Murthlac, et Aberdonen, Episc, Vitae^ p. 29 (Banna- 
tyne Club ed.) : * Perthi (nunc Sancti Johannis oppidum vocant).* 

' Major agrees with Aristotle (though in this case he does not name him) as 
to the importance of walls for a city. Cf. Pol. vii. 11. It should be noted that 
he does not reckon the fortification of Edinburgh, which took place in 1450, 
after the battle of Sark ; and his absence from Edinburgh, while the fortification 
of the city was going on after Flodden, may account for his taking no note of 
this addition to the number of Scottish fortified towns. Pedro de Ayala says 
{Early Travels in Scotland^ p. 47) that Scotland had only one fortified town. 
Cf. Leslie's History^ Cody's edition, pp. 8, 103 ; and on the general question 
Buchanan's famous lines : — 

Nee fossa et muris patriam sed Marte tueri, 
Et spreta incolumem vita defendere famam. 



[book I. 

polity of 

y^illages and 
bouses of the 

the enemy chance to come off victor, then the next chief gathers 
another force, always at the cost of the people themselves who 
take part, and goes out to further combat. There are in Scot- 
land for the most part two strongholds to every league, in- 
tended both as a defence against a foreign foe, and to meet 
the first outbreak of a civil war ; of these some are not strong ; 
but others, belonging to the richer men, are strong enough. 
The Scots do not fortify their strongholds ^ and cities by en- 
trenchments, because, were these to be held at any time by the 
enemy, they would simply serve him for a shelter ; and thus it 
would no way profit the Scots, especially within the marches of 
the enemy, to possess fortified cities or even strongholds. 

The ecclesiastical polity of Scotland is not worthy of com- 
parison with that of England * ; the bishops admit to the 
priesthood men who are quite unskilled in music, and they 
ought at least to understand the Gregorian chants It 
happens sometimes that thirty villages, far distant one from 
another, have but one and the same parish church ; so that a 
village may be separated from its parish church by four or five, 
sometimes by ten miles. In the neighbouring chapels of the 
lords, however, they may have a chance to hear divine service, 
because even the meanest lord keeps one household chaplain, 
and more, if his wealth and otlier provision allow it. In war 
these men are not inferior to others that are laymen ; mass they 
celebrate before midday. From what has now been said it 
follows that in Scotland the cures are few, but wealthy ; and 
their wealth disinclines the curates to serve their charges in 
person. It would however be better to multiply the cures, and 
lessen the revenues, and the bishops should have an eye to this. 

Further, in Scotland the houses of the country people are 
small, as it were cottages, and the reason is this : they have 
no permanent holdings, but hired only, or in lease for 

^ The words are * artificiose invadunt *. The reading * invallant * has been 
suggested, but the word seems to want authority, 'muniunt ' is another proposed 
reading, and a further suggestion is to read *praeterea' (* besides*) for * propterea * 

' For Major's preference for the ecclesiastical polity of England, cf. Bk. iii. 
ch. vi. 

' Before bursars were admitted to St. Leonard's college, St. Andrews, they 
were tested in the Gregorian chant. At Winchester college, in our own day, the 
one question asked of the young candidates for admission was — * Can you sing ? * 


four or five years, at the pleasure of the lord of the soil ; 
therefore do they not dare to build good houses, though stone 
abound ; neither do they plant trees or hedges for their 
orchards, nor do they dung the land ; and this is no small 
loss and damage to the whole realm. If the landlords would 
let their lands in perpetuity, they might have double and treble 
of the profit that now comes to them — and for this reason : the 
country folk would then cultivate their land beyond all com- 
parison better, would grow richer, and would build fair 
dwellings that should be an ornament to the country; nor 
would those murders take place which follow the eviction of 
a holder ^. If a landlord have let to another the holding of a 
quarrelsome fellow 2, him will the evicted man murder as if he 
were the landlord'^s bosom friend. Nor would the landlords 
have to fear that their vassals would not rise with them against 
the enemy — that is an irrational fear. Far better for the king 
and the commonweal that the vassal should not so rise at the , 

mere nod of his superior; but that with justice and in tran- 
quillity all cases should be duly treated. Laws, too, can be 
made under which, on pain of losing his holding, a vassal must 
take part in his lord'*s quarrel. This readiness on the part of 
subjects to make the quarrel of their chief their own quarrel 
ends often, of a truth, in making an exile of the chief himself ^ 
England excels Scotland, by a little, in fertility, for the 
former country is not removed so far from the path of the 
sun ; but in fish Scotland far more abounds ^ : that is, that very Abundance 
nearness to the sun of the other country God ha^ made upgL^}.""" 
to us in another way. <You will tell me, perchance : * The 
northern sea is deeper than the southern, on account of the 
air that has been turned into water'; and that is plain 
enough from this sign, since the ocean flows from the north 

^ Feu-fenn, or permanent holding by money-payment, although not unknown 
at a much earlier period, became more common after the statute 1457, c. 71. 
The progress of feu-ferm is traced in Exchequer RoUsy vol. xiil. pp. cxii-cxxv. 
Sir David Lyndsay took a different view of this tenure in consequence of its re- 
sulting in enhanced rents. Cf. Satire of the Three Estates, vol. ii. p. 224, Laing*s ed. 

' ' unius animosi terras *. The same use of * unus *= French * un', is found on 
p. 38, ' unus Scotus Sylvester *, and infra, Bk. III. ch. v. * Makduffum de Fyfa 
Thanum, unum praecipuum regni '. Cf. also ' unas mittit literas ', Bk. I v. ch. xx. 

' Cf. Bk. VI. ch. xvii. * Pedro de Ayala says (Early 

Travels in Scotland, p. 44) that ' piscinata Scotia * was a proverbial expression. 



south wards>^. But whose ordination, if not that of the Divine 
Wisdom, was this — that the northern people, far from the 
sun, should be blessed with deep waters, and, in consequence, 
with waters that Abound more in fish ; since wherever, in sea or 
river, there is greater depth, there, other things being equal, 
is greater store of fish. To the people of the North God gave 
less intelligence^ than to those of the South, but greater 
strength of body, a more courageous spirit \ greater comeli- 
ness. Every year an English fleet sails for Iceland beyond the 
arctic circle in quest of fish ; and from us they buy both 
salmon and other kinds of fish. In most parts of Scotland 
you may buy a large fresh salmon for two duodenae, in other 
parts, however, for a sou ; and for a Hard you may carry away 
a hundred fresh herring *. 

^ ' Forte dices : mare apud Septentrionem est profundius quam apud meridiem 
propter aerem in aquam conversum ; et istud a signo patet, cum a Septentrione 
Oceanus decurrat.' The whole statement is to us not so much staggering as 
meaningless ; but it was a commonplace in the school-books of the time. In 
one of these — the Margarita Philosophica Nova, of which several editions were 
published in the first quarter of the sixteenth century, an encyclopaedia of the 
arts and science is rendered accessible — all by way of dialogue between master and 
scholar — to the young student ; and in every division of the book the commanding 
influence of Aristotle is felt. In the fourth chapter of the ninth book we have the 
' discipulus ' begging to be instructed in the ' qualities of the elements and their 
transmutations '. The ' magister ' is satisfied with the general intelligence of his 
pupil in saying that fire and air are related in respect of heat ; fire and earth in 
respect of dryness ; air and water in respect of vioisture ; water and earth in 
respect of co/d; while fire and water on the one hand, and air and earth on the 
other, are net related ; he is not so well pleased that the * discipulus ' should 
express a difficulty in seeing how air can ever be moister than water. The 
magister accordingly explains that air has intrinsically greater moistening power 
{magis humeciat) than water, by reason of its penetrability, while water has 
extrinsically more moistening power than air by reason of its density. But their 
united virtues are of course stronger than either by itself. If we do not yet 
understand how the air was turned into water because ' the ocean flows from the 
north southward ' (but cf. Arist. De Coelo^ ii. 4), we at least see how it is that 
water, with this large infusion of the moister element of air, should produce more 
fish — which was what had to be shown. 

2 It was a constant wonder with Continental scholars that Buchanan should 
have been born in Scotland. On one of his portraits we have the inscription : — 
Scotia si vatem hunc gelidam produxit ad arcton, 
Credo equidem gelidi percaluere poli. 

' Cf. Bk, I. ch. vii. (where Major quotes Aristotle to this effect), ch. viii., 
and Bk. v. ch. xiv. 

* The * escu * (Lat. scutum\ Mod. French * ^cu.' Major's * scutum solare *= 
two francs. The * sol' or * sou * (Lat. WiV/«»i)=the French shilling (* whereof 


Scotland can show rivers, too, excellently furnished with fish, 
such as the Forth, which flows into an arm of the sea likewise 
called Forth, four leagues in breadth. Near Leith it has the 
name of the Scottish Sea, since it separated the southern Picts 
and Britons from the Scots. Between Saint John and Dundee 
£Fows the Tay ; the Spey, the Don, the Dee are famous rivers 
of Aberdeenshire^. Besides these there are the Clyde, the 
Tweed, and many other rivers, all abounding in salmon, trout, 
turbot, and pike ; and, near the sea is great plenty of oysters, 
as well as crabs, and polypods^ of marvellous size. One crab or 
polypod is larger than thirty crabs such as are found in the 
Seine. The shells of the jointed polypods that you shall see in 
Paris clinging to the ropes of the pile-driving engines' are a 
sufficient proof of this. In Lent and in summer, at the winter 
and the summer solstice, people go in early morning from my 

ten make one of ours ' — Cotgrave*s Diet, : London, 1650). This is to be under- 
stood of the ' sol Toumois', which, translated as *a piece of Tours ', is frequently 
used by Major. The coinage of Tours was less valuable by one- fifth that of 
Paris. A livre of Tours, e.g. =20 sous, a livre of Paris =2$ sous ; a sou of Tours 
= 12 deniers, a sou of Paris = 15 deniers. The Hard was a coin = three deniers, 
or the fourth part of a sou. The * duodena * = a piece of twelve deniers. 
• The words librae solidus^ denarius^ from which are derived our £5, </., repre- 
sented in the West of Europe the same proportions from the time of Charlemagne. 
The pound or livre = twenty shillings or sous ; the shilling or sou = twelve pence 
or deniers. But the value of the livre or pound depended on the extent to which 
in a given country and at a given time the currency had been depreciated. This 
. • . process was carried much further in France than in England ; hence the 
French livre is now a franc (about -f^ of our pound). The French sou (or 
5-centime piece) is not quite a halfpenny in value, and the denier, if it were 
still a coin, would be worth -j^ of a centime *. — From Mr. A. H. Gosset's 
edition oi V Avare^ 1887, p. 97. 

* No part of the Spey flows through Aberdeenshire. 

' Major's 'polypes' or 'polypus', which he distinguishes from the 'cancer,' 
is without doubt our lobster, whose shape closely resembles that of the crayfish. 

* ' Polypedum articulorum testae in Campanellarum funibus Parisii pen- 
dentes.' I wish very particularly to thank M. Auguste Beljame of Paris for 
his explanation of this difficult passage: 'Campanella=r/0^^d, sonruite^ i.e. a 
bell. But sonnette means also a pile-driving machine, so called from the action 
of the men who pull the ropes being the same as that of bell-ringers.' Major's 
Paris * polypedes ' were without doubt crayfishes, which were found on the ropes 
of the pile-drivers when these had been for some time in the water of the Seine. 
In our own day (see Professor Huxley's The Crayfish^ p. 10) * Paris alone, with 
its two millions of inhabitants, consumes annually from five to six millions of 
crayfishes, and pays about ;f 16,000 for them '. 



own Gleghomie and tlie neiglibouring parts to the shore, drag 
out the polypods and crabs with hooks, and return at noon with 
well-filled sacks. At these seasons the tide is at its lowest, and 
the polypods and crabs take shelter under the rocks by the sea. 
A hook is fastened to the end of a stick, and when the fish be- 
comes aware of the wood or iron, it catches the same with one 
of its joints, thus connecting itself with the stick, which the 
Abundance of fisherman then at once draws up. But not only is there abun- 
salu dance of fish in Scotland, but also of salt, which is sold in equal 

Iceland has no measure with even the poorest oats. Iceland, which is desti- 
tute of wheat, is the most fertile of all lands in fish. 

Near to Gleghomie, in the ocean, at a distance of two leagues^ 
is the Bass Rock, wherein is an impregnable stronghold. Round 
about it is seen a marvellous multitude of great ducks (which 
they call SoUendae) that live on fish. These fowl are not of 
the very same species with the common wild duck or with the 
Solan geese. domestic duck ; but inasmuch as they very nearly resemble 

them in colour and in shape, they share with them the common 
name, but for the sake of distinction are called solans. These 
ducks then, or these geese, in the spring of every year return from 
the south to the rock of the Bass in flocks, and for two or 
three days, during which the dwellers on the rock are careful 
to make no disturbing noise, the birds fly round the rock* 
They then begin to build their nests, stay there throughout 
the summer, living upon fish, while the inhabitants of the Rock 
eat the fish that are caught by them, for the men climb to the 
nests of the birds, and there get fish to their desire. Mar- 
vellous is the skill of this bird in tlie catching of fish. 
At the bottom of the sea witli lynx-like eye he spies the fish, 
precipitates himself upon it, as the sparrow-hawk upon the 
heron \ and then with beak and claw drags him to the surface ; 
and if at some distance from the rock he sees another fish^ 
better than the first that has caught his eye, he lets the first 
escape until he has made sure of the one that was last seen ; 
and thus on the rock throughout the summer the freshest fish 
are always to be had. The ducklings, or goslings, are sold in 
the neighbouring country. If you will eat of them twice or 
thrice you shall find them very savoury ; for these birds are 
extremely fat, and the fat skilfully extracted is very service- 

1 Cf. Virg. Georg, i. 405, CiHs 488. 


able in the preparation of drugs ; and the lean part of the 
flesh they sell. In the end of autumn the birds fly round 
about the Rock for the space of three days, and afterward, as in 
flocks, they take flight to southern parts for the whole winter, 
that there they may live, as it were, in summer ; — because, when 
it is winter with us it is summer with the people of the south. 
These birds are very long-lived — a fact which the inhabitants 
have proved by marks placed upon certain of them. The 
produce of these birds supports upon the Rock thirty or forty 
men of the garrison ; and some rent is paid by them to the 
lord of the Rock^. 

Scotland possesses a great many harbours, of which Cromarty, The harbour 
at the mouth of the northern river^, is held to be the safest — ° ^^ ^' 
and by reason of its good anchorage it is called by sailors 

^ Part of Boece's account of the Bass (1526) may be given in Bellenden's 
translation (1536) : * Thocht thay have ane fische in thair mouth abone the seis, 
quhair thay fie, yit gif thay se ane uthir bettir, thay lat the first fal, and doukis, 
with ane fellon stoure, in the see, and bringis haistelie up the fische that thay 
last saw ; and thoucht this fische be reft fra hir be the keparis of the castell, 
scho takkis litill indingnation, bot fleis incontinent for ane uthir. Thir keparis, 
of the castell forsaid, takis the young geis fra thaim with litill impediment ; 
thus cumis gret proffet yeirlie to the lord of the said castell. Within the 
bowellis of thir geis is ane fatnes of singulare medicine; for it helis mony 
infirmiteis, speciallie sik as cumis be gut and cater disceding in the hanches of 
men and wemen.' — Vol. i. p. xxxvii. 

Lesley (1578), in Dalrymple*s translation, writes as follows: 'Mairatouer, 
thay are sa greidie that gif thay sie ony fishe mair diligate neir the crag, the 
pray, quhilke perauentur thay brocht far aff, with speid thay wap out of thair 
mouth, and violentlie wil now that pray invade, and quhen thay liaue takne it 
will bring it to thair birdes . . . finalie of thir cumis yeirlie to the capitane of 
the castell na smal bot ane verie large rent ; for nocht only baith to him selfe 
and to vtheris obteines he sticks, fische, ye, and the fowlis selfes, quhilkes, be 
cause thay haue a diligate taste, in gret number ar sent to the nerrest tounes to 
be salde, bot lykwyse of thair fethiris, and fatt quhilkes gyue a gret price, he 
gathiris mekle money ; of thame this is the commone opinione, that by vthiris 
vses thay serue to, they ar a present remeid against the gutt, and vthiris dolouris 
of the bodie.' — Scot. Text. Soc. ed. pp. 25, 26. 

These extracts show something of the place in our early Scottish histories that 
was accorded to the solans of the Bass. Major, writing in Latin, cannot be to 
us so picturesque as Bellenden and Dalrymple, but it should be remembered that 
while his successors may have seen what they describe, he was familiar with the 
Bass from his boyhood. As to the support of the garrison at a later date, we find 
Sir John Dalrymple writing to George, Lord Melville, June 23, 1689 : * It [the 
Bass] can hold out, for the sollen gies and other fowls is mor than sufficient to 
sustean the garrison.' — TAe MelvilUSy edited by Sir W. Fraser, vol. ii. p. 113. 

* Flumen Boreale—the Moray Firth. 


Sykkersand ^ that is, *safe sand\ Every seaboard town has 
a sufficient harboiv*. Now Scotland is so cut up by arms 
of the sea, that in the whole land there is no house distant 
from the salt water by more than twenty leagues. In 
many parts Scotland is mountainous, but it is on the moun- 
tains that the best pasture is to be found. Many men hold 
as many as ten thousand sheep ^ and one thousand cattle, and 
thus draw com and wine from sheep and kine. Near to Aber- 
he Alps of deen are the Alps of Scotland, vulgarly called the Mounth 
xji an . ^£ Scotland ^, which formerly separated the Scots from the Picts. 

These mountains are impassable by horsemen. Round about 
the foot of the mountains are great woods. There, I incline 
ie Caledonian to think, was the Caledonian Forest, of which Ptolemy and the 
^'®*** Roman writers make mention, and in these woods is found an 

incredible number of stags and hinds. At that time Aberdeen 
berdonian was the seat of the Scottish monarchy *, though the kings of the 
lotiand. Scots were crowned at Scone, 

Outside Britain the king of the Scots possesses several 

lands that are islands, such as, to the north, the Orkneys, which the Greeks 

^^ect to t- ^^j Latins ever spoke of with a sort of horror. More than 

twenty of them are now inhabited, and some are twelve leagues 

in length. Shetland is the most easterly, and is fifty miles in 

^ In Mercator's map of Scotland (1597), Cromarty is called * Portus Salutis*. 

^ From the context one must suppose that Major is speaking of the Highlands. 
Mr. Cosmo Innes in his Lectures on Scotch Legcd Antiquities^ pp. 263-4, says 
* there were at that time [1600] no cattle or sheep reared in large flocks and herds 
in our Highlands • . . there was nothing but the petty flock of sheep or herd of 
a few milk-cows grazed close round the farm-house, and folded nightly for fear of 
the wolf or more cunning depredators'. This statement, if we may credit Major, 
needs some qualification. Cf. also what Major says infra^ at the end of chapter viii. 
about the wealth of cattle, sheep, and horses among one part of the Wild Scots ; 
and so early as 1 296 Edward the First ordered 700 sheep to be brought from the 
county of Athol and delivered to the nunnery of Coldstream, in indemnity for the 
damage done to that House by the English army. —Documents iliustrative of the 
History of Scotland, ed. by the Rev. Joseph Stevenson, Edin. 1870, vol. ii. p. 34. 
As to the number of sheep * apud Britannos ', Major writes further in the In 
Quartum (46th question of the 15th distinction) that you may find there a man 
who owns more than the 7CXX) sheep of Job — sometimes even 10,000, and this 
happens mostly where the country is mountainous. 

' * Scotiae montes vulgariter dicti *. Cf. Skene's Celtic Scotland, vol. i. 
pp. 10-14, cd. 1876. 'Beyond the Munth*, i.e, from Aberdeen northwards, is 
a phrase quoted by Mr. Innes (p. 114 oi Lectures on Legal Afitiquities) in con- 
nection with a combination of burghs. 

^ This is a noteworthy statement. 


length. They produce in plenty oats and barley, but not 
wheat, and in pasture and cattle they abound. Orkney butter, 
seasoned with salt, is sold very cheap in Scotland. 

Between Scotland and Ireland are many more islands, and 
larger ones than the Orkneys, which likewise obey the Scottish 
king. The most southerly is Man, fifteen leagues in length, 
which we have ourselves caught sight of at Saint Ninian ^, In it 
is the episcopal see of Sodor, at the present day in the hands of 
the English. There is also the island of Argadia *, belonging to 
the earl of Argadia, which we call Argyle, thirty leagues in length. 
There the people swear by the hand of Galium More, just as ^u^°^°^ 
in old times the Egyptians used to swear by the health of 
Pharaoh. The greater C umbrae is another island, rich and 
large. Another is the island of Arran, which gives the The carl of 
title of earl to the lord Hamilton. <Then there is the island ^^^^ 
Awyna, in which is the cell of Saint Aidan. In it were for- The cell of 
merly most excellent religious, and Bede says that it ought ^^^ *"* 
to belong to the Britons, but the Picts made grant thereof 
to Scottish religious. This island lies further to the north 
than Bute, and is but six miles from the coast of Ireland>^ 
There is further the island called Isola, or in the common Isola or Isla. 
tongue Yla, an exceeding beautiful island. Therein is wont 
to dwell the Lord Alexander of the Isles, whom men used 
to call the earl of the Isles. In this island he had two fair 
strongholds of large extent, and thirty or forty thousand men 
were at his beck. This Yla I take to be the Thyle, or Thule, 
which was in such evil odour with the Greek and Roman Thxiie. 
writers, of which Virgil has that Tiii serviet ultima TTiule^. 
For, or Shetland, or Yla, or Iceland, Thule must needs have 
been. Now Iceland, which is beyond the arctic circle, the 
Romans never reached. There is further the island of Bute or Bute. 

1 Whithorn. 

* In Mercator's map the name Argadia is applied to the district between 
Loch Fyne and Loch Long. 

' * Est insula Awyna . . . Ipsa autem est Butha borealior sex mille passibus ab 
Hibemia solum distans.' There is some confusion here. By * Awyna', *quae 
videlicet insula ad ius quidem Brittaniae pertinet' (Bede, I/.E, iii. 3), Major 
must mean lona, but his geographical description applies rather to the island 
of Sanda, called by the Danes * Havin * or *Avona\ and * still [1854] called 
" Avon" by the highlanders.*— 6>/7;^. Par. Scot,, vol. ii. pt. I, p. 9. It is distant 
about four miles from the south coast of Kintyre, and about eighteen miles 
from the coast of Ireland. ' Geor^, i. 3. 


Rothesay, and the island of Lismore, which gives a title to the 

episcopal see of Argyle^. Far to the north is the island of 

Skye, fifteen leagues in length. The island of Lewis has a 

length of thirty leagues. Besides these are many other islands, 

of which the least is greater than the largest of the Orkneys. 

In that region are great lakes, wherein are islands, as Loch- 

^^ ^ lomond, the island of Saint Colmoc, in which is a Priory of 

ontain islands. Canons Regular, Lochard, three leagues in length, Lochban- 

quhar \ Loch Tay, Loch Awe, with a length of twelve. Other 

islands there are too in the sea as well as in the fresh water. 

Tie speech of All these islands speak the Irish tongue, but the Orkneys 

le Islanders, ^^p^^j^ Gothic. That great-souled Robert Bruce in his last 

testament gave this counsel to those who should come after 

him, that the kings of the Scots should never part themselves 

from these islands, inasmuch as they could thence have cattle 

in plenty, and stout warriors, while in the hands of others they 

would not readily yield allegiance to the king, whereas with 

the slender title of the Isles the king can hold them to the 

great advantage of the realm, and most of all if he should 

make recompence to others of a peaceful territory. 

> '.' ua u The mutton of the Britons is inferior to the same meat in 

intish flesh- 

3ods. France, and less savoury ; the opposite is the case with beef; — 

and, as I think, the reason is this: a poor herbage makes a 

savoury mutton, and a rich herbage an unsavoury. I used to 

mar\d when in the neighbourhood of Paris I saw the sheep 

• being driven to poor pasture, and when I asked the reason, I 

was told that otherwise the meat would not be good. In 

Britain the sheep are horned, and are not gelded. Their 

lomed sheep, homs are almost as the horns of stags. Near Paris the sheep 

are hornless. This points to the possession of a moister climate 

by Britain, and the islands are more moist than the other parts. 

For a solar ecu, that is, for two francs, a large ox may be 

bought in the northern parts of Scotland ; for five or six sous 

of Tours^ a ram ; for six or seven pieces of Tours* a fat capon 

or a goose. In the southern parts of Scotland everything is 

a little dearer ; in the north the best of fish may be had for 

next to nothing. 

Sottish Horses they have in plenty, and these show a great endur- 

^ Ecclesia Lesmorensis alias Ei^adiensis, A.D. 1420. — Vatican MS. in Brady. 
^ Vennachar. ^ solidis Turonensibus. ■* Turonis. 


ance both of work and cold. At Saint John and Dundee 
a Highland Scot^ will bring down two hundred or three 
hundred horses, unbroken, that have never been mounted. 
For two francs, or fifty duodenae, you shall have one ready 
broken. They are brought up alongside of their dams in the 
forests and the cold, and are thus fitted to stand all severity of 
weather. They are of no great size, and are thus not fitted to 
carry a man in heavy armour to the wars, but a light-armed 
man may ride them at any speed where he will. More hardy 
horses of so small a size you shall nowhere find. In Scotland 
for the most part the horses are gelded, because their summer 
pasturing is in the open country, and this is attended by small 
expense ; yet such a horse will travel further in a day, and for 
a longer time, than a horse that has not been gelded. He will 
do his ten or twelve leagues without food. Afterwards, while 
his master is eating his own victual, he puts his horse to 
pasture, and by the time he has had a sufficient meal he will 
find his horse fit to carry him further. On the sea-coast, 
where pasture is not so plentiful, such horses cannot be 
reared. Some stallions are kept by great men in stables, 
because these are of a higher spirit than other horses, but 
in the matter of riding they are neither swifter nor more 

In the southern parts of Scotland forests are few*, for which 
reason coal is burned, and stone peat or turf, and not wood, 
as we have said above; stone-peat is less hard than coal>^.* 
Aeneas Sylvius says that the Scots use black stones for fuel in 
an iron cradle, meaning coal or sulphureous earth by * black 
stones \ Heather or bog-myrtle grows in the moors in greatest 
abundance, and for fuel is but little less serviceable than juniper. 

^ Cf. ante, p- 3i. ^ Cf. atite^ p. 7. 

' * Quia pro igne habendo carbonibus, et petris seu peltis, et non lignis 
(ut superius diximus) utuntur: carbone petra est minus dura. ' [F., like Orig., 
prints 'peltis,' but in his Errata changes the word to *petis'.] Two kinds 
of peat were recognised in Scotland, as was also the case in Ireland : one, the 
common peat or turf; the other, so hard that Major calls it * petra *, — less 
hard than coal. * Cum petariis et turbariis * is a common phrase in charter 
Latin. For Ireland cf. Carve's Lyra, p. 43 : * Habet et Hibernia duplicis 
generis cespites, alios graciles, alios duros, et crassos, lapides quoque carbonibus 
sua virtute consimiles, qui pro maximo fabrorum ferrariorum commodo variis in 
locis effodiuntur.' 


I have here to coin a Latin word^ from the vulgar tongue, 
because I do not fancy that the plant was to be found in Italy ; 
but you may meet with it in the wood of Notre Dame near to 
Paris, though it does not there grow to such a height as m 
Britain. Some of our countrymen suppose the land on which 
this plant is found to be worthless and barren ; but I on the 
other hand look upon it as eminently valuable and fruitful 
ground. The plant when dried after the manner of juniper 
makes excellent fuel, and I much prefer it to coal; but just 
because they have the thing abundantly, they hold it cheap. 
Under this plant and in its neighbourhood the pasture for 
cattle is such that you shall find none better. 

CHAP. VII. — Concerning the Manners and Customs of the Scots. 

Mutual recri- HnnERTO we have had under review the soil of Scotland, 
ti^l^g^and i^ rivers and its animals, with the islands that are situated 
the Scots. beyond the bounds of Britain. We will now speak for a little 
of the manners and customs of the Scots. I have read in 
histories written by Englishmen that the Scots are the worst 
of traitors, and that this stain is with them inborn. Not other- 
wise, if we are to believe those writers, did the Scots overthrow 
the kingdom and the warlike nation of the Picts. The Scots, 
on the other hand, call the English the chief of traitors*, and, 
denying that their weapon is a brave man's sword, affirm that 
all their victories are won by guile and craft. I, however, am 
not wont to credit the common Scot in his vituperation of 
the English, nor yet the Englishman in his vituperation of 
the Scot^. ""Tis the part of a sensible man to use his own 
eyes, to put far from him at once all inordinate love of his 
own countrymen and hatred of his enemies, and thereafter to 
pass judgment, well weighed, in equal scales; he must keep the 
temper of his mind founded upon right reason, and regulate 
his opinion accordingly. Aristotle observes in the sixth book 
of his Politics^ that southern peoples excel the northerners in 

^ ' haddcra\ It is curious that Major should have coined this word, when 
* erica * is in common use in Pliny for heath and broom. 

'■^ * traditionum * Orig. and F. : an evident misprint for * traditorum '. 

' Cf, Bk. IV. ch. xix., where the death of Edward the First is used as an 
occasion to express the same feeling. 

^ PoL vii. 7 : * Those who live in a cold climate and in [northern] Europe 


intelligence, and that, on the contrary, northerners have the 
advantage in warlike virtue. In northern nations, therefore, we 
need not expect to find craftiness in war, or guile. But in the He clears 
matter of prejudices that have their root in hatred, bear this in objected *o*^ 
mind: that two neighbouring kingdoms, striving for the mastery, ^^® ^^^• 
never cherish a sincere desire for peace. Let pass before your 
eye in silent review all Europe, Africa, and Asia, the three 
principal parts of the world, and I am much mistaken if you 
do not find this to be the case. Now between England and 
Scotland a man may pass dry-shod, and both nations labour 
incessantly for the extension of their boundaries. And though 
in the number of its inhabitants, in the fertility of its 
soil, England has the advantage over Scotland, the Scots, 
truly or untruly, strongly suspect that they can make head 
against the English — ^yea, even should these bring in their train 
a hundred thousand foreign fighting men. And this is no 
empty assumption on their part. For though the English 
became masters of Aquitaine, Anjou, Normandy, Ireland and 
Wales, they have up to this date made no way in Scotland, 
unless by the help of our own dissensions ; and for eighteen 
hundred and fifty years the Scots have kept foot in Britain, 
and at this present day are no less strong, no less given to war, 
than they ever were, ready to risk life itself for their country^s 
independence, and counting death for their country an honour- 
able thing. And if the Alps, the Pyrenees, the Rhine, the sea 
itself, hardly suflice to make war impossible among nations of 
a more peaceful temper than the Britons, it is no matter for 
astonishment if the maintenance of peace is in very truth no 
easy matter among various kingdoms in one and the same 
island, each of them the eager rival of its neighbour in the 
extension of its marches. 

Those wars are just which are waged in behalf of peace; 
and to God, the Ruler of all, I pray, that He may grant such Peace by way of 
a peace to the Britons, that one of its kings in a union of 
marriage may by just title gain both kingdoms — for any 
other way of reaching an assured peace I hardly see. I dare 
to say that Englishman and Scot alike have small regard for 

are full of spirit but wanting in intelligence and skill ; and therefore they 
keep their freedom, but have no political organisation, and are incapable of 
ruling over others.' Cf. Major, Bk. i. ch. vi. (p. 32), and Bk. v. ch. xiv. 


their monarchs if they do not continually aim at intermar- 
riages, that so one kingdom of Britain may be formed out of 
the two that now exist ^. Such a peaceful union finds continual 
hindrance in eacli man of hostile temper, and in all men who 
are bent upon their private advantage to the neglect of the 
common weal. Yet to this a Scottish or an English sophist 
may make answer": * Intermarriages there have been many times, 
yet peace came not that way/ To whom I make answer, that 
an unexceptionable title has never been in that way made good. 
The children of whatever our historians may fable about the blessed Margaret, 
^^^^ who was an Englishwoman. That the Scots never had more 
excellent kings than those bom of Englishwomen is clear from 
the example of the children of the blessed Margaret, kings that 
never knew defeat, and were in every way the best. A like ex- 
ample you shall find in the second James, whose mother was an 
Englishwoman, while to prophesy about the fifth of that name, 
the seven-year-old grandson of an Englishman, would indeed 
be to pretend to see clearly into a future charged with clouds * : 
but my prayer to God at least is this : that in uprightness of 
life and character he may imitate those Jameses, his father, his 
The Scots : great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather, 
haughty. Sabellicus^, who was no mean historian, charges the Scots 

* There is no more remarkable feature in this History than the repeated ex- 
pression of the author's desire for a union between the countries. This is the 
first utterance of that sort, but compare further Bk. I v. ch. xii. on the marriage of 
Alexander the Third with a daughter of Henry the Third, and on the marriage of 
Margaret, daughter of Alexander the Third, with the king of Norway. For the 
fullest statement of Major's opinion see Bk. iv. ch. xviii., and cf. also Bk. v. ch. 
xvii., on the marriage of David the Second with the sister of Edward the Third. 

^ *de Jacobo . . . adhuc indicare tenebrosa est aqua in nubibus aeris.* This 
is a favourite metaphor with Major. We find the same words in Bk. ii. ch. v. 
and Bk. v. ch. vii, about the prophecies of Merlin, and the same with scarce a 
variation in the * Propositio ad Auditores ' (quoted above, p. 29). 

* i,e. Marcantonio Coccio, bom in 1436 in the ancient territory of the Sabines. 
His master, Pomponius, therefore named Coccio * Sabellicus *. He became 
professor of Eloquence, and is the author of a history of Venice, Rhapsodia 
Historiaruni EnneadeSy etc. He died in 1536 *gallica tabe ex vaga venere 
quaesita non obscura comsumptus*. The following are the more relevant 
passages in the History of Sabellicus : — * The English people are blue-eyed, 
of fair complexion and goodly appearance ; tall of stature, fearless in war, the 
best of bowmen. Their women are of an outstanding beauty ; the common 
people ignoble, untutored, and inhospitable; the nobility have gentler man- 
ners, and are more conscious of the duties of a civil behaviour. With head 


with being of a jealous temper ; and it must be admitted that 
there is some colour for this charge to be gathered elsewhere. 
The French have a proverb about the Scots to this effect : * 111 
est fier comme ung Escossoys^ that is, * The man is as proud 
as a Scot\ And this receives some confirmation from that 
habit of the French when they call the western Spaniards birds 
of a fine feather ; and Dionysius, in his De Situ Orhls^ speak- 
ing of the Spaniards, gives them this character, * that they 
are of all men the haughtiest'. Now the Scots trace their ^^ Spaniards 
descent, as we shall show further on, from the Spaniards, and a proud race, 
grandchildren mostly follow the habits of their ancestors — 
witness the Philosopher, in the first book of his Politics^ 
where he says, *The boastful man takes readily to jealousy \ 
A man that is puffed up strives for some singular pre-eminence 
above his fellows, and when he sees that other men are equal 
to him or but little his inferiors, he is filled with rage and 
breaks out into jealousy. I do not deny that some of the 
Scots may be boastful and puffed up, but whether they suffer 
more than their neighbours from suchlike faults, I have not 
quite made up my mind. Many a trifling thing is said that will 
not bear examination. I merely remember that Sabellicus 
thus expressed himself. Perchance he had seen a few Scots 

uncovered, and bending on one knee, they greet a guest ; should it be a 
woman, they offer a kiss. They take her to a tavern and drink together. 
And that is a thing truly disgraceful. Let all that is lustful remain far from 
us . . . There are many towns in the land, the chief among them Lundonia, 
the royal seat, by corruption of language now called Londres. Scotland 
is the furthest part of England to the north. . . . Not far distant lies Hibernia, 
which the common people call * Hirland '. The dress of these islanders is the same; 
there is indeed scarce any point of difference betwixt them — the same tongue, 
the same customs. Their intelligence is quick ; they are prone to revenge ; in 
war they are of a notable fierceness ; they are sober, most patient of hunger. 
They are of an elegant stature, but careless of civilised ways. The Scots are so 
called from their painted bodies, as some hold ; it was of old the common custom 
to bum patterns into the breast and arms; to-day that custom has fallen from use 
in most cases, and those that observe it are the Wild Scots. They are by nature 
jealous, and hold the rest of mortals in scorn ; too readily do they make a boast 
of their noble descent, and, though in the depths of poverty, will claim kinship 
with the royal stock ; they delight in lying, and keep not the peace ; in other 
respects they are as the English. ' [Then follows the story of Aeneas Sylvius 
and the coal, and of the Barnacle Geese.] — Enneadis decimae liber quintus (vol. 
i. fol. cli.) ; Venice, vol. i. 1498; vol. ii. 1504. 


at Rome engaged in litigation connected with their benefices, 
and these men no doubt, as is customary with rivals, were 
full of mutual jealousy. The French speeches that I have 
quoted date from the time of Charles, the seventh of that 
name. At that time Charles had Scots in his service in his 
war with the English ; and as Charles had at first but a scanty 
treasury, his soldiers were forced to seize what provision they 
could from the common people. With those poor people they 
dealt harshly, and the Scottish nobles (just as they use to do 
in their own country) despised them as being ignobly bom ; so 
that, first among the common people of France, and afterwards 
with the nation at large, they came to have this reputation of 
haughtiness. There sprang up at that time among the French 
yet another saying about the Scots. * The Scot\ they said, 
* brings in a small horse first, and afterwards a big one \ — a 
saying that had its origin in this wise : the Scots soldiers had 
the habit, when in the field, to march in troops, just as most 
of the French do at this day, and that they might the more 
easily find quarters in the dwellings of the country people, 
they sent their amblers and sorry nags in front with a small 
body of men ; and when these had once got admission, they 
were soon followed by the men of rank with their chargers, and 
the main body of the troop. That all Britons are of a temper 
proud enough, I take to be established by the argument from 
universaLs — not the logical universal, but the moral, since it 
admits of some exceptions ; but that they are prouder than the 
Germans, the Spaniards ^, or the French, I do not grant. 

We will now proceed to another charge that is brought 

The Scots in against our countrymen. It is said that the Scots were in the 

eating human habit of eating human flesh, and those who bring this charge 

flesh. shelter themselves under Jerome, where he writes : * What 

shall I say of other nations — how when I was in Gaul as a 

youth, I saw the Scots, a British race, eating human flesh, and 

how, when these men came in the forests upon herds of swine 

and sheep and cattle, they would cut off the buttocks of 

the shepherds and the paps of the women, and hold these for 

their greatest delicacy ? "* You cannot say that he means the 

1 For the Spaniards who attended Major's class in Paris, see the Introduction 
to this volume. 


Goths or the Irish Scots, because of the word British. Well, 
to this from Jerome I make answer: Even if all the Scots did 
so, 'twould bring no stain on their posterity : the faithful in 
Europe are descended from the Gentile and the infidel ; the 
guilt of an ancestor is no disgrace to his children when these 
have learned to live conformably witli reason. Besides, though 
a few Scots of whom St. Jerome thus writes, did as he reports, 
in their own island even the Scots did not generally live in such 
fashion — a conclusion that I take to be proved thus : Bede, 
writing three hundred years after Jerome, where he treats of 
the first emergence of the Scots in history, and he was their 
neighbour, says not a word of this. Strabo seemed to attribute 
the custom to the Irish, and to certain savage Scots. 

I further note that the English Bartholomew, in his De 
Proprietatibus^^ says of the Scots * that among the Scots 'tis 
held to be a base man's part to die in his bed, but death in 
battle they think a noble thing'. To him I make answer that 
this is no way to be imputed as a fault, that death in arms 
and in a just quarrel is a fair end for a man. 

Most writers note yet another fault in the Scots, and The Scots boast 
Sabellicus touches this point : That the Scots are prone to °o the Lng. *^ 
call themselves of noble birth ; and this I can support by 
a saying about the Scots that is common among the French, 
for they will say of such an one : * That man 's a cousin 
of the king of Scots ' ^. To speak truly, I am not able to 
acquit the Scots of this fault % for both at home and abroad 
they take inordinate pleasure in noble birth, and (though of 
ignoble origin themselves) delight in hearing themselves spoken 
of as come of noble blood. I sometimes use humorously the 
following argument in dealing with such of my fellow-country- 
men as make themselves out to be of noble birth. One thing 
must be granted me : that no man, namely, is noble, unless 
one of his parents be noble ; and that it is absurd to call any 
one ignoble whose parents are noble. This granted me, I pro- 

* The first Encyclopaedia of English origin, D^ ProprUtatibus Rerttnty was 
written by Bartholomeus de Glanville about 1360, and translated about 1398 by 
the Cornishman, John de Trevisa. 

^ Is regis Scotorum cognatus germanus est. 

' Leslie says (p. 96 of his History, ed. Cody) : ' quhen sum writeris in thame 
noted sik vices they spak no altogither raschlie '. 



ceed to ask, whether Adam were of noble birth, or no. If the 
first — it contradicts one part of the premiss. If the second — 
all his children were of noble birth. And so you must grant 
all men noble, or all ignoble. Besides, concerning the first 
nobleman, I change the question, and ask, ^ How came he by 
his nobility ?' Not from his parents — so much is known ; and 
if, first of all, you call him a nobleman who is the son of one 
who is not noble, you contradict the premiss. Poor noblemen 
marry into mean but wealthy families. In this way some of the 
The nobles in Scots ennoble their whole country. Such unions are recognised 

in Scotland as well as in England. But to such Scots I am 
wont to say, that then, their blood being mixed with ignoble 
blood, there is no pure nobility. I say, therefore — ^There is 
absolutely no true nobility but virtue and the evidence of 
virtue. That which is commonly called nobility is naught but 
a windy thing of human devising. Those men are termed 
nobles who draw a livelihood from what they possess — and by 
whatever means they came by their possessions — without pursuit 
of any handicraft, most of all if they can also claim an ancient 
descent, whether they won their wealth by just or by unjust 
means, and if it remain for generations in their family : these 
in the eyes of the world are noble. Hence it follows that 
kings drew their origin from shepherds, and shepherds again 
their origin from kings. The first part of the corollary is 
plain, and up to this point is declared. If a shepherd buy 
lands with his much wealth, his issue acquires somewhat, if but 
little, of nobility. His grandson, grown wealthier still, ad- 
vances a step in nobility ; but with the lapse of time riches are 
added to riches : the owner now becomes a mighty chief, and 
takes to wife the daughter of a king — who just in the same 
way had climbed to his present eminence. I shall now state 
the second part of the corollary, where one monarch drives 
another from his throne. The exile is forced to take service 
as a soldier or to accept some other place of inferiority, and 
from his proud estate must sound the lowest depth. There- 
fore — . Sabellicus asserts that the Scots delight in lying ; but 
to me it is not so clear that lies like these flourish with more 
vigour among the Scots than among other people^. 

^ See Appendix for a translation of the 14th question of the 24th distinction 
in the In Quarium, where the question of nobility is treated at greater length. 


CHAP. VIII. — Something further concerning the manners and 
customs of the ScotSj that is, of the peasantry, as well as of the nobles, 
ami of the Wild Scots, as well as the civilised part. 

Having said something of the manner of life and character 
of the Scots, it remains to continue the same subject in respect 
of their civilised nobles, as many before me have done. The The British m 
British nobles are not less civilised than their peers on the con- used^Suty.* 
tinent of Europe. They form a certain community apart from 
the common people. Of outward elegance I find more in the 
cities of France and their inhabitants than among the Britons; 
but in the country, and amon^ the peasantry, there is more 
of elegance in Britain. In Britain no man goes unarmed to 
church or market, nor indeed outside the village in which he 
dwells. In their style of dress, and in their arms, they try 
to rival the lesser nobles, and if one of these should strike them 
they return the blow upon the spot. In both of the British 
kingdoms the warlike strength of the nation resides in its com- 
mon people and its peasantry. The farmers rent their land 
from the lords, but cultivate it by means of their servants, and farmere to\iii 
not with their own hands. They keep a horse and weapons o{^^? ^^ ^^™" 
war, and are ready to take part in his quarrel, be it just or 
unjust, with any powerful lord, if they only have a liking for 
him, and with him, if need be, to fight to the death. The 
farmers have further this fault : that they do not bring up their 
sons to any handicraft. Shoemakers, tailors, and all such 
craftsmen they reckon as contemptible and unfit for war ; and 
they therefore bring up their children to take service with the 
great nobles, or with a view to their living in the country in 
the manner of their fathers. Even dwellers in towns they hold 
as unfit for war ; and in truth they are much before the towns- 
folk in the art of war, and prove themselves far stouter soldiers. 
Townsfolk are accustomed to luxurious eating and drinking, 
and a quiet fashion of life, and have not the habit of bearing 
arms ; they give in therefore at once when brought face to face 
with the hard life of a soldier. The farmers, on the other 
hand, brought up in all temperance of drink, and continuous 
bodily exercise, are of a harder fibre. Though they do not till 
their land themselves, they keep a diligent eye upon their 


servants and household, and in great part ride out with the 
neighbouring nobles. 

Among tlie nobles I note two faults. The first is this : K 
two nobles of equal rank happen to be very near neighbours, 
s. quarrels and even shedding of blood are a common thing between 
them ; and their very retainers cannot meet without strife. 
Just in this way, when Abraliam and Lot increased in wealth, 
did their shepherds not keep the peace. From the beginning 
of time families at strife with one another make bequest of 
hatred to their children ; and thus do they cultivate hatred in 
the place of the love of God. 

The second fault I note is this : The gentry educate their 
children neither in letters nor in morals^ — no small calamity to 
the state. They ought to search out men learned in history, 
upright in character, and to them intrust the education of their 
children, so that even in tender age these may begin to form 
right habits, and act when they are mature in years like 
men endowed with reason. Justice, courage, and all those 
forms of temperance which may be put to daily use they 
should pursue, and have in abhorrence the corresponding vices 
as things low and mean. The sons of neighbouring nobles 
would not then find it a hard thing to live together in peace ; 
they would no more be stirrers up of sedition in the state, and 
in war would approve themselves no less brave — ^as may be 
seen from the example of the Romans, whose most illustrious 
generals were men well skilled in polite learning ; and the 
same thing we read of the Greeks, the Carthaginians, and the 

Further, just as among the Scots we find two distinct tongues, 
so we likewise find two different ways of life and conduct. 
For some are bom in the forests and mountains of the north, 
and these we call men of the Highland, but the others men 
of the Lowland. By foreigners the former are called Wild 
Scots, the latter householding Scots. The Irish tongue is in 
use among the former, the English tongue among the latter. 

^ It was in 1496, when Major was abroad, that the remarkable Act was passed 
which ordained that all barons and freeholders should send their sons to grammar 
schools at eight or nine years of age, and keep them there till they have * perfect 
Latin ', and thereafter to the schools of ' art and jure * for three years. 


One-half of Scotland speaks Irish, and all these as well as the 
Islanders we reckon to belong to the Wild Scots. In dress, 
in the manner of their outward life, and in good morals, for 
example, these come behind the householding Scots — yet they 
are not less, but rather much more, prompt to fight ; and this, 
both because they dwell more towards the north ^, and because, 
bom as they are in the mountains, and dwellers in forests, their 
very nature is more combative. It is, however, with the house- 
holding Scots that the government and direction of the kingdom 
is to be found, inasmuch as they understand better, or at least 
less ill than the others, the nature of a civil polity. One part of The Wild Scots, 
the Wild Scots have a wealth of cattle, sheep, and horses, and 
these, with a thought for the possible loss of their possessions, 
yield more willing obedience to the courts of law and the king. 
The other part of these people delight in the chase and a life 
of indolence ; their chiefs eagerly follow bad men if only they 
may not have the need to labour ; taking no pains to earn 
their own livelihood, they live upon others, and follow their 
own worthless and savage chief in all evil courses sooner than 
they will pursue an honest industry. They are full of mutual 
dissensions, and war rather than peace is their normal condition. 
The Scottish kings have with difficulty been able to withstand 
the inroads of these men. From the mid-leg to the foot they 
go uncovered ; their dress is, for an over garment, a loose plaid, 
and a shirt saffron-dyed. They are armed with bow and 
arrows, a broadsword, and a small halbert. They always carry 
in their belt a stout dagger, single-edged ^, but of the sharpest. 
In time of war they cover the whole body with a coat of mail, 
made of iron rings, and in it they fight. The common 
folk among the Wild Scots go out to battle with the whole 
body clad in a linen garment sewed together in patchwork, 
well daubed with wax or with pitch, and with an over-coat of 
deerskin^. But the common people among our domestic Scots 

^ Cf. Bk. I. ch. V. (p. 32). 

' Cf. Bk. V. ch. iii. for a rather different description of the arms of the 
Wild Scots at Bannockbum. May the description here be that of the Wild 
Scots* accoutrements as Major knew them, and that in Bk« v. be based upon 
an older chronicler ? 

^ The old notices as to the Highland dress are collected in Tratisactions of 
the lona Ciub, vol. i. p. 25 seq, (1834). 



and the English fight in a woollen garment. For musical 
instruments and vocal music the Wild Scots use the harp, whose 
strings are of brass, and not of animal gut ; and on this 
they make most pleasing melody. Our householding Scots, or 
quiet and civil-living people — ^that is, all who lead a decent 
and reasonable life — these men hate, on account of their dif- 
fering speech, as much as they do the English. 

CHAP. IX. — Concerning the various origin of the Scots, and the 
reason of the name. For the Scots are sprung from the Irish, and the 
Irish in turn from the Spaniards, and the Scots are so named ajler the 
fvoman Scota, 

Up to this point we have been telling of the origin of the 

Britons, and of the customs of the Scottish Britons. It remains 

to say something of the origin of the Scots. Some of the 

English chroniclers affirm that the descent of the Scots as well 

as of the Welsh may be traced to Brutus. Brutus, they say. 

The sons of had three sons, the name of the first, Locrinus, to whom he 

*"*' gave England for his kingdom. The name of the second son 

was Albanac ; to him he gave the northern part of the island, 

and after him it was called Alban. On the third son. Camber, 

he bestowed the western pcui^ of the island, and it after him 

The Scots was called Cambria, and, at a later date, Wales. This fable 

to^oded from about Brutus we did not, in an earlier part of our work, accept ; 

and whatever (if indeed there were any such person) may be 

the fact about his sons, it is attested by a multiplicity of proof 

that we trace our descent from the Irish. This we learn from 

the English Bede^, who had no desire to attenuate the lineage 

of his kingdom. Their speech is another proof of this : at the 

present day almost the half of Scotland speaks the Irish tongue, 

and not so long ago it was spoken by the majority of us, and 

yet between Britain and Ireland flows such a breadth of water 

as we find between France and England. They brought their 

speech from Ireland into Britain ; and this is clear from the 

The Irish testimony of our own chroniclers, whose writers were not negli- 

U^^niards"™ g^^^ ^^ ^^^^ respect. I Say then, from whomsoever the Irish 

and the Scots traced their descent, from the same source come the Scots 
from the Irish. \ 

^ Hist. EccL i. i. 


though at one remove, as with son and grandfather. But the 
Irish had their origin from the Spaniards, a fact that I take to 
be admitted by the chroniclers. Starting from Braganza, a city 
of Portugal, and from the Ebro which receives most of the 
rivers of Spain, many of the inhabitants joining together went in 
quest of a new settlement and put out on the wide sea, just as 
they do at this present. In the space of three days they made 
a certain island, moderately peopled, and inasmuch as the 
inhabitants could offer no resistance, there they settled them- 
selves, and gave the name of Hibemia to this island, either 
because the greater part of the Spaniards came from the river 
Ebro [Hiberus] in Spain, or after a certain soldier of Spain named 
Hiberus, as some will have it, whose mother^s name was Scota. 
So that by some the island was called Hibemia, after Hiberus ; 
by others Scotia, after Scota. In the time of our ancestors it was 
more commonly called Scotia, but, in process of time, to mark 
its distinction from the Scots of Britain, it came to be known as 
Hibemia, not as Scotia. In some of our chroniclers we read 
that a certain king of the Greeks, by name Nealus, had a son 
called Gathelus, whom for his evil deeds he banished, and that 
this Gathelus set out for Eg)rpt, and there got to wife a 
daughter of Pharaoh, by name Scota; but when Pharaoh in 
his pursuit of the Hebrews was drowned in the Red Sea, 
Gathelus and Scota with their children were driven from 
Egypt, and, taking ship in search of a new country where they 
might dwell, in course of time came to the Spains^ They 
settled themselves in Lusitania, which is now called Portugal 
and is a part of Spain, and there built and fortified the city of 
Braganza. Others of their following, however, penetrating 
further into Spain, reached the river Hiberus ; and after dwell- 
ing there, they and their descendants, for two hundred years, 
began to seek a new place of habitation, and came to the island 
which is now called Hibemia. And if this story be true, the 
Irish Scots are descended from the Spaniards. 

As to this original departure of theirs out of Greece and Egypt, 
I count it a fable, and for this reason : their English enemies had 
learned to boast of an origin from the Trojans, so the Scots 

^ i,e. the Roman provinces of Hispania citerior and Hispania ulterior, which 
together made up the peninsula. 

52 JOHN MAJOffS HISTORY [book i. 

claimed an original descent from the Greeks who had subdued 
the Trojans, and then bettered it with this about the illustrious 
kingdom of Egypt. But seeing that all history and the simi- 
larity of language went to prove that the Irish sprang from 
people of Spain, they added yet this : that the Greeks and the 
Egyptians, from whom they claimed a still further and indeed 
original descent, spent two hundred years in western Hesperia. 
From ,all this it seems that some true statements are mixed up 
with statements that are doubtful. For it is certain that the 
Irish are descended from the Spaniards and the Scottish 
Britons from the Irish — all the rest I dismiss as doubtful, and 
to me, indeed, unprofitable. Our chroniclers relate yet another 
absurd story : to wit, that Simon Brek and the men of Spain 
who landed in Ireland both made a new language and put to 
death the whole population of the island. But, first, it would 
be both an inhuman thing, and one that served no purpose, to 
clear the island of slaves, women, and children. Antoninus ^ 
and Vincentius^ tell us that the Spaniards landed in Ireland with 
a large fleet and took possession of it as they saw good, whether 
with the sword or by peaceful means. What advantage could 
they reap by this destruction of an unwarlike race ? Secondly, 
as to this making of a language — ^'tis a thing contrary to all 
reason. If two races that speak different languages mix one 
with another, a language is produced which holds of both, so far 
as speaking is concerned, but which has more resemblance to 
that language of the two which is the more civilised and the 
pleasanter to hear. This is clear from a consideration of the 
English tongue, which has much in common with the Saxon. 
But owing to Danish and British influences it is much changed 
from the Saxon. And we southern Scots differ in our speech 
from the language of England on account of our neighbour- 
hood to the Wild Scots. The same thing may be seen with the 

* Antoninus was archbishop of Florence ; ob. 1459. He wrote a chronological 
history, which he called a * Summa Historialis \ 

' Vincentius Bellovaccnsis [i.e, of Beauvais] a Dominican, fl. in the 13th 
century. He wrote a * Speculum Doctrinale ' which embraced all the sciences. 
Among the books in the small library of the monastery of Kinloss there were 
found, before 1535, *quatuor Vincentii volumina, tria Chronicorum Antonini, 
and two of the works of John Major upon the Sentences. — Records^ etc, ed. by 
Dr. John Stuart, 1872. 


people of Picardy, in their use of the French language, on 
account of their proximity to the people of Flanders. Every- 
where the same fact may be noticed. The Irish language is 
very near the Spanish. The Spaniard in his morning greeting 
says * Bona dies\ the Irishman, * Vennoka die\ The Spaniards, 
like the Gascons — as we observed when we were in Paris — put 
b for r, unless they have changed their speech^. The Irish 
too, use the same funeral dirges as the Spaniards, and their 
customs are the same in many ways. 

Ireland is an island about half the size of Britain, not so far The situation 
to the north, and situated to the west of Britain, on all sides ° 
encompassed by the sea, and by as much distant from Britain as 
Britain is from Gaul. No serpents are to be found there, and if Irish soil kills 
you so much as place near a serpent in any other country a bit of ^^"^^^^ • 
Irish earth, that serpent dies. The island produces a kind of 
horses, which the natives call Haubim\ whose pace is of the 
gentlest. They were called Asturcones^ in old times because 

* * Vennoka die * is evidently meant for * beannacht De * (pronounced * beanaxt 
dye *, * blessing of God ', a very common Irish greeting. * beannacht * is bor- 
rowed from the Latin * benedictio ', and * De * (the genitive of * Dia ') has 
nothing to do with ' dies ' ; but Major is so far correct about b and v that in 
certain cases b in Irish becomes v» 

'^ Cf. Littre s,v. hobin : * nom d'une race de chevaux d*Ecosse, qui vont 
naturellement le pas qu'on appelle Tamble \ Ital. ubino, Dan. hoppe=^ a mare, 
Fris. hoppa^ onx hobby. Howell {Lexic, Tetrag,) has * HOBBIE, cheval irlandois*. 
Cf. *' Sunt etiam in hac insula [Ireland] praestantissimi equi, adeo ut Munsterus 
1. 2. Cosmograph. in descript. Hibern. asserat, *'gignit Hibemia multos equos, 
gnaviter incedunt, studentque velut data opera mollem facere gressum, ne 
insidenti molestiam ullam inferant ". £t Jovius, "equi tota Hibemia incorrupta 
sobole gignunt, mollissimo incessu Hobiilbs Angli vocant, et ob id a delicatis 
expetuntur, ac in Gallia, Italiaque nobilioribus foeminis dono dantur. Ex hoc 
genere duodecim candoris eximii purpura et argenteis habenis exornatos in 
Pompam summorum Pontificum sessore vacuos dud vidimus".* — Carve : Lyra 
ed. i666, p. 43. For the number of * equi discooperti [as distinguished from 
' equi cooperti '] qui dicuntur hobelarii ', among the Irish troops serving in Scot- 
land in 1296, cf. Documents illustrative of the History of Scot land y ed. by the 
Rev. Joseph Stevenson, 1870, vol. ii. p. 125. 

' Cf. Pliny : Nat. Hist. viii. 42. * Out of the same Spaine, from the parts 
called Gallicia and Asturia, certaine ambling jennets or nags are bred, which 
wee call Thieldones : and others of lesse stature and proportion every way, 
named Asturcones. These horses have a pleasant pace by themselves differing 
from others. For albeit they bee put to their full pace, a man shall see them 
set one foot before another so deftly and roundly in order by tumes [mollis 


they came from Asturia in Spain, and indeed the Spanish 
colonists brought those horses along with them. The French call 
these same horses English Haubini or Hobini, because they get 
them by way of England. This island, further, is no less fertile 
than Britain, and abounds in fair rivers well stocked with fish, in 
meadowland and woodland. The more southern part, which 
also is the more civilised, obeys the English king. The more 
northern part is under no king, but remains subject to chiefs 
of its own. In all that has now been told — of the horses, of the 
serpents, and of a soil that is fatal to all poisonous animals — 
we find a proof of the quiescence of its sky. For these 
AHience this are not the result in the first instance of the soil itself, nor yet 
rSewiTr"^ of the moveable sky, for part of Ireland is situated under the 
same parallel with Britain or with a part of Britain. Where- 
fore it is from the influence of that sky which can suffer no 
disturbance that the soil of Ireland draws this virtue K 

CHAP. X. — Of (he Origin of (he Picts, their Name and Customs, 

Let us now leave the Irish Scots, settled in tlie island of 
Ireland, and speak for a little of the Picts who were the 
seconds afler the Britons, and, according to true history, before 
the Scots, to found a kingdom in Britain. As the Venerable 
Bede says in the first book, and the first chapter, of his Ecclesi- 
astical History of the English nation, the Picts (by their own 
report) put out to sea from Scythia with a few ships of war, 
and, driven by a storm beyond the bounds of Britain, came to 
Ireland, wliere they found the nation of the Scots in posses- 
sion, and sought from them a settlement for themselves in these 
parts, but obtained none. But to the Picts the Scots spoke 
thus : * We can give you good counsel as to what you may be 

alterao crurum explicatu glomeratio], that it would doe one good to see it.* — 
Holland's trans. , 1601. 

* Cf. Aristot. tie Coelo, Bk. 11., and Bacon's comment : — * Aristotle's temerity 
and cavilling has begotten for us a fantastic heaven, composed of a fifth essence, 
free from change, and free likewise from heat.' — Descriptio Globi ItttdUctualiSy 
ch. 7, Ellis and Spedding's ed. vol. vi. p. 525. As to the virtues of the climate 
of Ireland cf. Giraldus Cambrensis, who attributes the singular salubrity of his 
birthplace, Manorbeer in Pembrokeshire, to its nearness to Ireland. — Itin. 
KambriaCy lib. i. cap. 12. ' 


able to do. Another island we know, not far from our own, 
towards the rising sun, which, in a clear day, may in the far 
distance be discerned. If you liave a mind to make for that 
island, you will be able to dwell there. For though the 
inhabitants sliould resist your landing, yet, with us to help you, 
all will turn out to your furthest wish** — the Scots, in this 
counsel of theirs, acting on that common proverb: He who A common 
will not receive you as a guest in his own house praises the P*'°^®' 
entertainment that you will meet with from his neighbour, 
that he may be rid of you. The Picts then made for Britain, 
and began to dwell in the northern parts of the island towards 
the east ; for the Britons were in occupation of the southern 
portion. And since the Picts were wifeless, they sought wives 
of the Scots, wlio on this condition only would grant the 
request, that, when any doubt arose in the matter of succession, 
they should choose their king rather from the female line than The queens oi 
from the male line, a practice which, it is well known, prevails 
with the Picts to the present day. They got the name of The origin of 
Picts either because they excelled in beauty of person and ^^^ '^"®* 
bodily strength, or because their dress was mostly of many 
colours, as if painted. 

CHAP. XI. — In what manner the Scots Jirst gained a settlement 

in Britain, 

To the Picts (as we have said) the Irish Scots gave their 
daughters in marriage, and, moved by a desire to see their 
children, they made no infrequent visits to the Picts, now 
settled in Britain. Tliere they took note of certain parts, in 
every way most fit for the pasturing of cattle, which the Picts 
had not yet occupied, and likewise of many small islands 
between Ireland and Britain. Other islands too they saw, in 
their many voyages, on the western shore of Britain, more 
northerly than Ireland. All this they reported to their own 
people ; and when the Irish Scots had considered the matter, 
they led into Britain yet a third nation, for it was with Reuda Chief Reuda. 
as their leader that the Scots set out from Ireland, and whether 
by friendly consent or by the sword gained a settlement in 
Britain by the side of the Picts. From this leader it is, 



[book I. 

The marble 

axx^rding to Bede ^, that they are to this day called Dahal- 
retulini. For in their tongue Dahal means a * part \ Our own 
Fergus. chronicles, however, bear that Fergus, son of Ferchard, set foot 
in Britain before Reuda, and that he showed in his armour a 
red lion, and was the first of the Scots who bore the sceptre in 
. Britain, as witness the verses well known among our people : 
* In Albion''s realm first king of Scottish seed, Fergus the son of 
Ferchard bore mid his troops the ensign of a red lion, roaring 
in a tawny field/ 

Concerning the date when this same Fergus set foot in 
Britain, take the following verses: * Fergus, who first gave 
laws and kingly rule to the Britons, lived before Christ three 
hundred years and thirty/ 

Fergus brought with him from Ireland the marble chair in 
which the kings of Scots are crowned at Scone K It is said that 
Symon Brek, when he set out from Spain for Ireland, found 
this marble stone, fashioned like a chair. This he regarded as 
an omen of the kingdom that was to be. But this story about 
Fergus in no way conflicts with the statement of the Vener- 
able Bede. For it was but a feeble foimdation of the kingdom 
that Fergus laid, and it was the son of his great-grandson, 
Rether. Rether, as our chroniclers call him, or Reuda — to speak with 
Bede — who confirmed that first foimdation, and added to his 
kingdom both what he won from the Picts and somewhat too 
from the Britons. He invaded that part of the country of the 
Britons to wliich he gave a name made famous by his fall in 
battle, Retherdale to wit ; that is, the valley, or part, of Rether, 
in English Rethisdaile, and to this day it is called Ryddisdaile ^, 
inasmuch as it was there that Rether, king of the Scots, lost his 
life. Very like this is to what we read of the mighty empire of 
the Assyrians, whose beginnings some writers trace to Bel, but 
others to Ninus Nembrothides. For the first foundation of that 
empire, small in outward measure, but great in promise, was 
laid by Bel, and afterwards received a mighty increase by Ninus 
Nembrothides. So much then let it suffice to have said con- 
cerning the first coming of the Scots and Picts into Britain. 

^ Hist. Eccl, i. 1. 

^ For the legends connected with this stone see Mr. Skene's Coronation Stone. 

^ Redesdale, in Northumberland. 


CHAP. XII. — Concerning the arrival of the Romans in Britain, and 

their achievements in that island. 

By the Romans, at that time the masters of the world, Britain Julius Caesar. 
had never been reached, and was indeed unknown ; but Julius 
Caesar, in the six hundred and ninety-third year from the 
foundation of the city, in the sixtieth year before the Incarna- 
tion of the Word, wlien he had subdued Gaul, hastened into 
Britain, and there his reception was of the fiercest. He lost a 
large number of foot-soldiers, of his horse the whole, and in a 
storm a great part of his ships. For not only did the Britons 
make stand against him ; tlie youtli of the Scots and Picts were 
also there, as Caxton, the English historian, makes mention. 
For they were in fear lest, should the Romans break their fast 
with the Britons, they would sup with the Scots and Picts, 
as the proverb goes : * Tis become your own concern when 
your neighbour s house takes fire.' 

Wherefore, though the three British kings — to ^it, the 
Briton, the Scot, and the Pict — were at war among themselves, 
against Caesar and their most powerful foe, the Romans, 
they went out to battle of one mind, ready to fight in one 
solid mass ; and, that I may say much in few words, when 
they had slain some of the Romans and routed tlie rest, they 
forced Caesar to show his back. He then returned to both Caesar's flight. 
Grauls, and when he had recovered himself, collected again a 
mighty fleet (six hundred vessels, as they say), and hastened a 
second time against the Britons, by whom he was nobly met, 
and his horsemen were routed utterly. The tribune Labienus, iy^<cti of 
a Roman of renown, was there slain ; but Caesar gathered once Labienus. 
more with care the wandering and scattered Romans. He 
again attacked the Britons, and now successful, now suffering 
defeat, at last came out the conqueror. After this victory he Caesar's 
brought a large part of the Britons under Roman rule, and ^*^°n^- 
forced Cassibellaunus, king of the Britons, to surrender. This 
king bound himself to jmy yearly to Caesar, as representing the 
Roman people, three thousand pounds of silver. Caesar then 
journeyed through the northern parts of the island, and came 
to the Scottish Sea that is called Fortli, and sent letters both 
to the Scots and to the Picts, in which he showed how that he 



[book l 

A memorial 
in stone. 

had subdued the Grauls, the Germans, and the Britons, and 
counselled them to submit to ^ the Romans, the masters of the 
world, and the toga'^ed race**; and when the Scots and Picts 
made small account of these letters, he sent them others of a 
threatening sort. An answer then they made forthwith, that 
they were moved neither by the fair words of the Romans nor 
yet by their threats, that with the help of the gods and with 
their own right arm they trusted to defend their remote and 
difficult recesses; but were it otherwise, they would spend 
their life for their country'^s freedom, and not without fearful 
bloodshed should the Romans establish their rule among them. 
Meanwhile, and when Caesar was awaiting the answer of the 
northern kings, he received sudden tidings of the Gauls, that 
these were rebelling against the Romans. When he heard 
this, he determined to make all speed to both Gauls, choosing 
rather to bring to terms a people once subdued, now in rebellion, 
than during such rebellion to attack another foe — lest he might 
thus lose the whole result of his laborious toil. But before 
his departure he ordered that a building of stone should be 
raised near the water of Caron [Carron] ^, as a memorial of his 
victory — herein imitating Hercules, who in the western part 
of Spain left two pillars in everlasting monument. 



CHAP. XIII. — How the Emperor Claudius came to Britain, 

In the seven hundred and ninety-ninth year of the city, 
Claudius, fourth emperor after Augustus Caesar, came to 
Britain, and, without any battle or shedding of blood, within 
a very few days reduced to submission the largest part of the 
island, which was still in a measure rebellious. To the Roman 
empire he added the islands of the Orkneys which lie to the 
north of Britain, of which we have above made mention. But 
in the sixth month from his setting out from Rome he 
returned thither, bestowing upon his son the name of Britan- 
nicus. This journey to Britain he accomplished in the fourth 
year of his reign, which year answers to the forty-sixth from 
the Incarnation of the Word. And here it is to he noted 

^ The monument known as * Arthur's O'on ', * Julius Hoff * ; figured in Cam- 
den's Brit,, p. 1223, ed. 1722, and in Gordon's It in. Septent,, p. 24, ed. 1726. 


as a wonderful tiling how he left untouched the Scots and the 
Picts, for to the Orkney islands he went by sea ; but his was 
not the daring spirit of Caesar, and for this reason he passed by 
each of the two kings who had withstood Caesar with success. 

From Bede and discourse of history it is made clear that 
afterwards the Scots and Picts made a sudden attack upon 
the Britons along with the Romans — unless it were argued 
that those kings promised to obey the Roman rule, and 
then at once on the departure of the Romans rose in revolt — 
a thing which I find nowhere recorded. In the time of the 
emperor Claudius, a mighty war began between the con- 
federated Scots and Picts on the one hand, and the Britons 
on the other — a war which lasted without a break for one 
hundred and fifty-four years. According to our chroniclers, 
the Romans were aiming, with the help of the Britons, at 
making the Scots and Picts tributaries to them ; which when 
these peoples came to understand, they made a fierce attack 
upon the Romans and the Britons, sparing neither sex, and 
levelling with the ground some fair cities of the Britons — 
Agned for one, which, when it had been rebuilt by Heth, the 
king of the Picts, came to be called Hethburg, and to-day Hethburg. 
is known to all men as Edinburgh, the royal seat in Scotland ; 
Carlisle, too, and Alinclud or Alclid, which I take it, is 
the city now known as Dunbarton. Afterwards, in the year one 
hundred and fifty-six of the Incarnate Word, when Antoninus 
Verus, fourteenth from Augustus, began to reign along with 
liis brother, Aurelius Commodus — in whose time the holy man 
Eleutherius was pope at Rome — Lucius, the British king, wrote Pope 
a letter to the pope, praying for baptism, and to his prayer Ludus^the'fii 
the pontiff religiously assented ; and thus, the faith once ^/^^^SIJ;^'*! 
received, the Britons kept it intact and unassailed even to 
the days of Diocletian. 

CHAP. XIV. — Concerning the events which thereafter happened in 
Britain, the building of the wall, the passion of Ursula with her com- 
panions at Cologne, the reception of the Catholic Faith, and the rest. 

In the hundred and eighty-ninth year from the Incarnation 
of our Lord, Severus set foot in Britain, to the end he might 



[book I. 


help the Britons against the Scots and Picts, and he saw that 
there was much need to build some kind of wall between them. 
A wall built. He made a wall accordingly, of stones and turf, as is told by 
Bede in the fifth chapter of the first book of his history of 
the church among the English nation ^. This wall extended 
between the rivers Tyne and Esk. A proof this is that the 
Scots and Picts did not acknowledge Roman rule. And 
further, in the year of our Lord two hundred twenty and five, 
Ursula, and along with her eleven thousand virgins, were to have 
journeyed to Aremorica, that they might there find husbands, 
because at that time the Aremoricans refused to take Frankish 
women to wife. These maidens took ship on the river 
Thames, but when a storm of wind arose they were tossed 
towards the Rhine, and so reached Cologne. With them 
Govan, the king of that country, and Elga his brother, together 
with his vassals, desired to have carnal dealing, which thing the 
maidens resisted with all their force, and then the t3rrants slew 
them. This Saint Ursula was the daughter of Dionoth, the ruler 
of Britain, and granddaughter, by a sister, of the king of the 
Scots. Thereafter, Govan and his brother Elga gather a large 
army, desiring to bring ruin on the country of those maidens ; 
and when they had set foot in Britain, they began to destroy 
its cities, strongholds, and above all (for they were infidels) its 
churches, and the Christians they everywhere put to the sword. 
Saint Alban suffered at that time. At length a certain Roman, 
by name Gratian, comes to Britain, puts Govan to flight, and 
claims for himself the crown of the Britons. He in turn was 
slain by the Britons for his misdeeds. After his death Govan 
returned yet once more to Britain, and wrought evil more than 
ever. The Britons thereupon approached the king of the 


^ Bede led Major and all subsequent Scottish historians (except Buchanan) 
into error on this point. In recent years it has been proved that this wall was 
built by Hadrian, though it is possible that Severus repaired it before 
commencing his Caledonian campaign [a.d. 208]. See Dr. Collingwood 
Bruce's Handbook^ p. 82, third ed. 1885, and Mr. Scarth's Roman Britain, 
p. 59. Buchanan shows f^Rer, Scotic. Hist., p. 5) that he saw Bede's error, and 
distinguishes between the wall of Antonine between the Forth and the Clyde, 
which was repaired by Severus (cf. Mr. Rhys's Celtic Britain, p. 91), and that 
of Hadrian between the Tyne and the Solway. It is noteworthy that Major 
seems strangely ignorant of the classical accounts of Britain. 


Aremoricans (that is, of Little Britain), by name Aldrey, be- Aldrey. 

seeching him to come to their help. He sends his own brother 

Constantius into Britain, who kills Go van, and puts all the 

infidels to the sword. This done, Constantius became king of 

the Britons, that is, of that tract of land in the island which 

the Britons were the first to take possession of. Here once 

more the Britons began openly to worship Christ. The Scots, 

too, in the seventh year of the emperor Severus, in the time of 

Victor, first received the Catholic faith. Some verses well 

known among the Scots declare this date, and thus they run : — 

Two hundred years and three after Christ had finished His Work 
Scotland began to follow the Catholic Faith. 

This Victor was the successor of Eleutherius. 

CHAP. XV. — Concerning the Strife between the Picts and Scots, 

In the two hundred and eighty-eighth year of the redemp- a war that he 
tion of the world there arose a quarrel between the Scots and co,25t^a dc 
Picts by reason of a certain Molossian hound of wonderful swift- 
ness, which certain Picts had taken secretly from the Scots, and 
which they refused to restore. It was at firet a war of words, 
but grew too soon to a strife of arms among those neighbouring 
peoples. Behold from how small a spark a great pile may be 
kindled ! ^ Meanwhile a certain Carausius is set over the Britons Carausius. 
by the Romans, — a man who troubled the whole country by his 
insatiable greed. The Roman emperor therefore sent an order 
to the Britons, to the effect that this Carausius should secretly 
be put out of the way. But when Carausius got wind of this, 
he went forthwith to the Scots and the Picts, brought these to a 
peaceable mind by large gifts, and the promise of still greater 
things if they would but stand by him in driving the Romans 
from the land. To this they give their assent willingly. Trust- 
ing then to such help as this, he drives the Romans out of the 
country, and claims the crown of the Britons for himself. But 
when the Romans heard how matters went in Britain, they 
sent a certain Bassianus, one of their generals, with a great army Basslanus. 

^ * Ecce quomodo ex scintilla ignis ingens rogus coaluit. ' In the Vulgate (St 
James iii. 5) ' Ecce quantus ignis quam magnam sylvam [Gr. CXriv, Eng. mattn'] 
incendit ! ' 


into Britain. This Bassianus came to an understanding with 
the Picts, and with their help managed to subdue the Britons 
who were on the side of Carausius. He promised to bring 
further help to the Picts, and to keep in check the Scots, 
against whom he knew the Picts to cherish a lively hatred on 
account of the wars that had been going on between them. 
Albeit, Bassianus was conquered and slain by Carausius and 

( slain, the Scots, the help of the Picts notwithstanding. Carausius 
then frees the Britons, who had been tributary to the 
Romans from the days of Julius Caesar, from such servitude 
and tribute ; but he was at last stabbed by one of his own 
soldiers. After his death, Maximus, who then had the com- 
mand in Britain, thought the time had come when he might 
gain possession of the whole island, yet saw no hope of bring- 
ing things so far while the Picts and Scots made common 
cause against him. He turned his mind first, therefore, to the 
Picts, as thinking them the stronger, and made with them a 
treaty of peace, by which they were to attack the Scots, think- 
ing, when once the Scots were expelled, that he should have no 
hard task in driving out the Picts, and so at length gain the 

5 sovereignty over the whole island. The Picts then wage war 

^^ against the Scots, give every village to the flames, and at the 
point of the sword bring universal ruin on the country. 

r Eugenius, the king of the Scots, they slay along with his son. 

•• Following whereupon, one Ethach by name, the brother of 
Eugenius, is forced to leave his native island, with his son Erth 
or Eric, and to repeat that word of Virgil, where he says — 

Nos patriae fines et dulcia linquimus arva^. 

The remnant of Scots, whom the sword had spared, made 
their way to Norway, Ireland, and the circumjacent islands. 
The Scots, then, driven from the kingdom, and the Picts 
wasted in their wars with the Scots, Maximus marches upon 
the Picts with a great army, and reduces them to a tributary 
condition. Now, had Maximus only been able to follow up 
the victory he had won, he might have made himself sole ruler 
in Britain ; but here was verified once more that saying of a 
Carthaginian noble about Hannibal, that Hannibal indeed 

» £cl, i. 3. 


could win a victory, but knew not how to use it. The same 
thing has happened with Pompey and Caesar, and most other 

At this same time a certain abbot, by name Regulus, under Abbot Reguiu 
admonition of an angel, brought into Britain relics of the 
Blessed Andrew, the head namely, an arm, and three fingers of 
the right hand, and he arrived by divine guidance in the 
country of the Picts. At that time Hurgust, son of Fergus, 
was king over that people, and he built for the Blessed 
Regulus and the brethren of his company a church every way 
noble, and granted them possessions whence they might gain 
their living. Thereafter, too, Hungus, king of the Picts, 
by reason of the special devotion in which he had the Blessed 
Andrew, bestowed upon that saint, on account of a miraculous Gifts made to 
victory won over the Britons, the tenth part of his lands. AposSe. 
Further, in the year three hundred and ninety-four after the 
Virgin had become a mother, Pelagius the Briton, by his denial 
of the grace of God, sowed in the Church a pestilent poison. 
This is understood by most men as the question of a special 
auxilium. It is more agreeable to the teaching of the saints The necessar> 
that no mortal, without the prevenient grace of God, without ^'^^^ ^ 
special auxilium, can elicit an act morally good : according 
to that saying of the Wise Man, ' I could not preserve myself 
continent except God gave it ' i, — that is, by a special gift. It 
is not the general co-operation of God that is here discussed. 
For that is necessary to every act, good as well as evil. The 
same is true of an act of faith, following that which the Truth 
speaks in the Gospel : * No man cometh unto me, unless my 
Father draw him."* The Father draws him on whom he bestows 
a special grace of faith. Let this then suffice to have said in 
our fifteenth chapter, and of the expulsion of the Scots from 
Britain. And herewith we make an end of the first book. 

* BaoJi: of Wisdom^ viii. 21. 

BOOK 11. 

CHAP. I. — Follows here the second book of British history. Of the 
return of the Scots into Britain, and their league with the Picts, and the 
wars that were soon thereafter carried on by them, and the building of a 

Ix the year three hundred and ninety-six from the redemp- 
tion of the world, in the time of the emperors Honorius and 
Arcadius, the scattered Scots returned to Britain, after an exile 
ScoSto^tain. of three-and-forty years ; and this they did partly at tlie 

prayer of the Picts, who had been wasted by the tribute 
exacted from them by the Britons. The Scots then, in large 
part by the help of the Picts, received their own lands again, 
and, burying the memory of ancient strife, they made a new 
treaty of amity, remembering that word of Sallust, where he 
writes : * By concord little things grow great ; by discord things 
the greatest fall to naught ** ^. 
Fergus the Further, in the year of our Lord four hundred and three, 

Second, Fergus son of Erth, — who was son to Echadius^, who was 

brother to Eugenius, the king who had been defeated by 
Maximus in war, — ^a youth of spirit, with his two brothers, 
Lorn and Angus, gained possession of the whole kingdom 
of Scotland up to the Scottish Sea *. Between this Fergus, son 
of Erth, and the first Fergus, son of Ferchard, we reckon 
fifteen kings of the Scots, whose reigns cover a space of seven 
hundred years, as you can gather from history. That same 
Fergus then, son of Erth, and the Picts together, attack their 
ancient enemy the Britons; and when these saw no way to 
make face against the double enemy, they sent for succour to 
the Romans, who answered indeed their prayer, and when they 

^ fugurtha^ ch. x. 

^ Perhaps * Eochodius ' ; cf. Bk. ii. ch. vii. 

' Orig. * Bamo et Tenago * ; F. corr. * Loamo et Tenego *, for which read 
* Loamo et Angusio '. 
* The Firth of Forth, sometimes called the Scotswater. 


had set foot in the island, gave themselves to the building of a 
wall, much more to the north than was the first wall built by 
the Romans. The second wall was even eighty miles further The Second 
to the north than was the first wall. The country that was thus ^^' 
bounded Maximus, the British general, added to his kingdom. Maximus. 
This wall began at Abercorn, and tended across the country to 
Alcluyd, passing by the city of Glasgow and Kirkpatrick^. 
By the inhabitants it is called Gramysdyk K But not content- 
ing them with such works as these, the Romans and the 
Britons wage open war against the Picts and Scots, and in a 
certain great battle slew Fergus, king of the Scots, with a Fergus riain. 
multitude of the Picts. We now have seen the slaying of three 
kings of the Scots. The first was he who was killed by the 
Britons, from whom Riddisdal is named * ; the second, Eugenius 
by name, lost his life at the hands of the Britons and the Picts, 
and now we read of Fergus, son of Erth, slain by the Romans 
and Britons. After this war the Scots and Picts were driven 
to retreat beyond the Scottish Sea. But straightway after the 
departure of the Romans, Eugenius, son of Fergus, along with Eugenius. 
the Picts, attacks the Britons, and inflicts upon them a defeat 
so great that they were forced to implore the Romans to come 
to their help. About the Britons I marvel, for this reason : 
they were three to one, and under the same king; and the 
Scots and Picts, if we do not count the circumjacent islands, 
held a mere corner of the country, scarce a third part of the 
island. The Romans once more sent an armed force, and with 
their help the Britons regained their ancient boundary in the 
Scottish Sea. 

CHAP. II. — Of the sending of Bishops to Scotland, and the conse- 
cration of several of them in that country, likewise of their holy lives, 
and the marvels that they wrought. 

In the year of our Lord four hundred and twenty-nine, pope Pailadiusisse 
Celestine consecrates as bishop Saint Palladius, and sends him *°^° Scotland 
to Scotland. For the Scots were at that time instructed in 
the faith by priests and monks without bishops. Palladius 

1 ue. Kilpatrick. » Graham's Dyke, i.e, Grim's Dyke or * Devil's Dyke ?. 

» Cf. p. 56. 


lus is ordains as bishop Servanus, and sent him to the islands of the 

Sds^f^ Orkneys that he might preach the gospel to those who dwelt 

*bop there. Hence it is plain that a bishop, where need is, can be 
consecrated by one bishop, and it is not of the essence of a 
bishop that he be ordained by three. Those persons err never- 
theless who ordain otherwise, where a trinity of bishops may be 
had\ James the Less was appointed overseer* of Jerusalem by 
Peter, John, and James the son of Zebedee ; following which 
example overseers are appointed by three presidents*. Servanus 

fern. baptized the Blessed Kentigern. Further : five years after the 
sending of Palladius to British Scotland, the same Celestine 

^ consecrates Saint Patrick, a Briton by race, as overseer, and 

sends him to the people of Ireland, and he, by the holiness of 
his life and the wonderful works that he did, converted the 
whole of Ireland to the Christian faith. Forty years he ruled 
the church in Ireland, and then, full of days and in the odour 

1. of sanctity, fell asleep in the Lord. At this time Saint Ninian 

visited the Blessed Martin at Tours, concerning whom Bede, in 
the third book, at the fourth chaper of the same, speaks thus : 
* The Blessed Ninian, bishop of the race of the Britons, a most 
reverend and holy man, who had been instructed in all things 
at Rome, founded Candida Casa, that is, a church built of 
stone, in a manner not in use among the Britons ; wherefore it 

d& Casa. came to be called Candida Casa. He built there a church in 
honour of the Blessed Martin, where this same Ninian and 
other holy men now rest."* The Britons were then in occupa- 
tion of the place, because it belonged to the province of the 
Bernicii — the kingdom of the Northumbrians is thus divided 
because the more northern portion thereof is called Bemicia. 
At this time, and even to the days of Bede, Candida Casa 
belonged to the Northumbrians. Bede wrote, having regard 

^ The consecration of a bishop by the present discipline of the Roman church 
must be performed ex necessitate praecepti by not less than three bishops, except 
by a papal dispensation which may allow two assistant priests to take the place 
of two bishops. Some few theologians have, however, maintained that three 
episcopal consecrators are required ex necessitate sacramenti, and that a conse- 
cration by a single bishop, without at least a papal dispensation, would be in- 
valid. — Ferraris : Prompta Biblioiheca, s.v. episcopus. 

' antistitcm. 

' a tribus praesulibus antistites instituuntur. 


to his own day, and not to what might be in the future. 

You will then understand how the Blessed Ninian came to 

preach the Word of God to the southern Picts and Britons, 

and the same you may gather from his collect, in which these 

words are found : * God, who didst teach the peoples of the 

Picts and Britons by the instruction of Holy Ninian, bishop 

and confessor \ — in which is no mention of the Scots ^. But 

now, and for many years, since the overthrow of the Pictish 

kingdom, the Scots hold both the place and the remains of the 

saint. The Picts had many times possession of Lothian and The supcriori 

those parts beyond the Scottish firth, and the better and more ^^^^^ ^*^^ 

fruitful portions that lay still further to the north ; and this 

came to pass, both because they had the advantage of the Scots 

in being the first to land in the island, and because, as I incline 

to think, they were somewhat superior to the Scots in numbers 

and in bodily strength. A proof of this I see herein, that 

though they were leagued with the Scots, it was they who 

occupied what parts of the country were reconquered from the 

Britons — a fact that argues greater sagacity in them, or 

superiority of some sort. 

CHAP. III. — Concerning the affairs oftlie Britons, 

We have already made mention of Constantius, the brother 
of the king of the Aremoricans. This Constantius had three 
sons bom to him : Constantius namely, Aurelius Ambrosius, 
and Uther. A certain Pict made away with Constantius ; and The trcacherc 
thus it happened : the Pict, hating Constantius, gave out c^tamhis. 
that he had a secret which must be disclosed to Constantius 
alone, and thus he took the king unawares. Hence let kings 
learn not to give audience, unless in the presence of their own 
people, to men of whose good faith they have not assurance * 
— a caution which may be fortified by that example from 
the Book of Kings, where we read that Aioth took Eglon 

^ Cf. the Breviarium Aberdonense for the 1 6th of September. 
^ This warning is repeated in Bk. III. ch. viii., on the occasion of the death 
of Malcolm Canmore. 



jzutvares smi DdM^e Avaj with him ^. Cooitaurtia^ tiie eldest 
bora of tbe wq» of Coik»taBtiiB. ittd becooK a monk of Win- 
chester; but Vordger, tht cmri of Wcstcx, withdrev him from 
the coeaobctac ftAte that he ni^t be set over the kii^doiii^ 
fer h2» bro^ho^ were of an age too tender to hold the sceptre. 
Hereia Vortf^er acted vickcdlr — stripping of his habit & 
moQk vithoat vhom the a^ goremment might have been 
carT%d wiselj enoc^fa. Hiat waj of the wise men I i^jpiore 
rather, which hcrids that, in the case of a monk at least who 
is not in sacred ordcn, it is <^ien to the supreme pontiff to 
giant him diqiensation, so that he mar return to the worid for 
the conduct of weightj matt«s which can be settled in no 
other waT ; but that there was in this case such a call I cannot 
see. Cottstantius, then, once withdrawn from the coenobitic 
state, all things were at the nod and beck of Vortigm*. He 
brought together one hundred Picts whom he used as his body- 
guard, treated them courteouslr, enriched them with manj 
gifts, and gave them to understand - that if he were to gain 
the height of power in the kingdom, he would raise them to 
places of authoritr. These Picts, therefore, that they might 
do Vortiger a pleasure, by a deed of daring rashness murdered 
^of king Constantius. Vortiger thereupon orders his hundred 
P^^^ Picts to be seized, and sends them to London, where, under the 
dstbe sword of the avenger, they paid the penalty of their crime. 
This he did that, under a cloak of deceit, he might hide his 
own guilt*. Now when the guardians of the brothers of 
Constantius learned what had happened, and chief among them, 
one Joscelin, bishop of London, they send their charges to the 
king of Little Britain, who receives them kindly. AVhen the 
Picts heard of the slaughter of their own soldiers, they were 
filled with indignation at a crime so foul, so dyed with 
treachery, and, with the Scots, their confederates, they make 

1 Judges iiL 20-22. The spelling * Aioth ' is curious. Heb. has T^HK (Ehud), 
LXX. 'AiW, and Vulg. • Aod *. 

> ' eis dans intelligere ' ; * giving them to understand ' has a strangely modem 
sound ; but this instance proves that the phrase must have been in use in Major's 
day, and such colloquial expressions are not uncommon in consequence of Latin 
being then used as the language of conversation. 

* ' ut suam innocentiam sub dolo malo occultaret '. There is some confusion^ 
here ; but the sense is plain. 


for the northern part of the Britons^ country, which they laid 
waste, nothing sparing. In their rage they threw down the 
wall built by the Romans for the purpose of warding off hostile 
attacks upon the Britons. 

At that time it began to be bruited that Aurelius 
Ambrosius and Uther, the brothers of murdered Constantius, 
were on their way with an armed force to attack Vortiger. 
<To the Saxons, who were then heathens, Vortiger now The Saxons 
sends for a large body of soldiers, and they, with a great attain. ^ 
army, make a descent upon Britain>^, under the leading 
of Hengist and his brother, Horsa by name, and drove back 
the enemy from his borders. This done, Hengist makes 
Vortiger king, on the understanding that he should have a 
place given him wherein to build a castle, and land for his men 
— a condition that was readily granted. Meanwhile Hengist 
sends to the Saxons for a large force and for women. Among 
these, one Ronovem, a beautiful maiden, the daughter ofRonovem. 
Hengist, came to land in Britain. In all, they freighted a 
hundred vessels with soldiers and women. Some time there- 
after, Hengist invited Vortiger to come to see his castle, and 
when the time came for the king to retire to rest, Ronovem, 
Hengisfs daughter, entered his chamber, and drank to the 
king'^s health from a golden cup or bowl filled with wine, say- 
ing, * VVassaile \ or ' Wachtheil \ Now the king understood 
not the tongue in which she spoke, and from his interpreter he 
learned that the maiden in drinking thus wished him good 
health. In the end, falling in love with his heathen girl, he 
asked her in marriage ; and Hengist consented thereto on the 

^ Orig. : * Ad Saxones tunc paganos pro multo milite mittit, quod cum copioso 
exercitu ... in Britanniam ... * This use of * pro *, which is common with Major 
(cf. t'n/ra, * pro multo milite et mulieribus* ; Bk. ill. ch. iii., * pro Edwardo ... 
Angliae primores mittunt ' ; and Bk. ill. ch. xv. : ' ita quod Reges pro regni 
primoribus et eorum conjugibus mittunt *) might be illustrated by a number of 
instances from medieval Latin. In a monograph upon Talbot's Tomb, in the 
parish church of Whitchurch, Salop, by the Rev. W. H. Egerton, Rector of 
Whitchurch (Oswestry, 1885, p. 5), the inscription on Talbot's sword is given as 
* SUM Talboti pro vincere inimicos meos *. Though this use of * pro * is not 
classical, one seems to see it in the act of growth (as has been pointed out to 
me by Professor Herbert Strong) in such a sentence as * misimus qui pro vectura 
solveret * — Cic. ad Alt. i. 3. The use of * quod ' as above is also curious. I 
have treated it as a misprint for ' qui '. 



[book II. 




condition that the king should grant him the whole of Kent 
for his people ; and this the king secretly yielded. But this 
thoughtless marriage of his with a heathen damsel, whose 
character was all unknown to him, and the loss to his kingdom 
of large possessions, which accompanied the union, were his 
destruction. It was this conduct that stirred up some men of 
rank in the kingdom, who soon stripped Vortiger of the 
sovereign power, and placed the crown on the head of his son 
Vortimer, born of a Christian woman. This Vortimer, so soon 
as he became king, made peace secretly with the Christian 
Scots and Picts. With their help he drove the Saxons and 
Hengist out of the kingdom, and not long thereafter, Ronovem, 
Hengist's daughter, Vortimer^s stepmother, makes away with 
Vortimer by poison. A well-known custom this is of step- 
mothers—by treachery to make away with their husbands'* 
children. Let sons then, and especially wealthy sons, beware 
of a stepmother as they would of Cerberus. The Britons soon 
thereafter restore this same Vortiger, who before had been 
despoiled of his kingdom, but made with him this condition : 
that he should on no account receive Engist into the country. 
This notwithstanding, Ronovem declared to Engist, her father, 
how she had made away with Vortimer by poison, and how 
Vortiger was once more king, and therefore beseeches her 
father to descend upon Britain with an armed force. Engist 
invaded Britain then with fifteen thousand fighting men, and 
when Vortiger with the Britons would have made stand against 
him, he refused the combat, saying that he had come because 
of that Kent which before had been granted to him, and not 
to fight with the Britons ; that he was ready rather to bring 
them succour against the enemy. He besought the Britons 
therefore to appoint a day when he might meet them, saying 
that he should take with him no more than of mounted men 
four hundred, while the king should have in his train the like 
number of trusty Britons. The meeting took place accordingly 
near Sarum, that is, Salisbury, on a certain hill. Engist had 
ordered his men to carry each of them a dagger concealed in 
his boots, and when he gave the word — ' The time is come to 
speak of peace and friendship ^ — they were to make a sudden 
rush upon the Britons thus caught unarmed and unawares. To 


Engist then they gave heed, and there fell through Saxon 
treachery upon that hill ten hundred and sixty noble men 
among the Britons. Vortiger, the king, was taken, and that 
he might escape with his life, he handed over to the Saxons his 
strong places, cities, and all munition of war, and with the 
Britons fled into Wales, — where to this day may be found the 
true Britons and the British tongue. 

This done, the pagan Engist destroys and tramples in the 
dust clergy, churches, all that pertained to divine worship, and 
commands, under the severest penalty, that thenceforth no man 
shall call the country * Britain \ but only * Engisfs land \ On 
seven of the chief men among the Saxons he bestowed seven 
kingdoms. In Kent he himself continued to abide as over- 
king. The kingdom of Kent has one boundary in the eastern The kingdom 
sea, and extends along the river Thames. The second king kingSms in^ 
was Suuthsaxon ; this is the kingdom of the southern Saxons. England. 
It was bounded in the east by the kingdom of Kent, in the 
south by the ocean ^ and the Isle of Wight, in the west by 
Hampshire, in the north by Surrey. The third kingdom was 
formerly that of the eastern Saxons, bounded in the east by 
the sea, in the west by London, in the south by the Thames, 
in the north by Suffolk. The fourth kingdom was that of the 
eastern English. Norfolk and Suffolk are contained therein, 
and for its boundaries it has, on the east, the sea ; on the north, 
Cantibrigia or Cambridgeshire, in which the chief town is 
Cambridge; on the west, the fosse of Saint Edmund and 
Hertfordshire; and on the south, Essex. The fifth kingdom 
was that of the western Saxons, which has on its eastern limit 
the southern Saxons ; to the north, the Thames ; to the west 
and south, the ocean. The sixth kingdom, that of the 
Mercians, was the largest of all; the river Dee, near 
Chester, and the Severn near Shrewsbury, and as far as 
Bristol, formed its western boundary ; the eastern boundary 
was the eastern sea ; on the south it touched the Thames at 
London ; its northern limit was the river Humber. In some parts The river 
to the west you have the river Mersey as far as the angle Verbal*; ^""^ ^' 

^ mare Oceanum. 

2 i,e, Wirral, the point of land between the Mersey and the Dee. 


the Humber, on the other side, falls into the eastern sea^ 
It is from the river Mersey that the kingdom takes the name of 
Mercian. This Mercian kingdom is divided into three parts — 
that is, West Mercia, East Mercia, and Middle Mercia. The 
seventh kingdom was that of the Northumbrians, touching on 
its eastern side the kingdom of the Mercians, having for its 
northern limit the Forth, that is, the Scottish firth, as its name 
The Wall at this day bears witness, and as is plain also from the wall 
which begins at that sea and extends to Kirkpatrick *, Glasgow, 
and Dumbarton. Some assert that this wall was built by 
Bilenus, a king of Britain, who thought he should thus, once 
for all, put to rest the question of the boundary between his 
own land and that of the Scots and Picts. Meanwhile this 
kingdom was divided, and the northern part was called the 
kingdom of the Bernicians. 

CHAP. IV.— Of Merlin the Prophet. 

We have seen how Engist plundered the Britons of a large 
part of the kingdom and handed it over to the Saxons, from 
whose birthland it came to be called Angliau In their own 
tongue it had the name of <* Engist land \ that is, * the land of 
Eiigist "*>*. Afterwards, for brevity's sake, and from much inter- 
England, course with the Britons, it was called * England', and rightly 
the word should be spoken as if spelled with an * e ^ and not 
with an *i\ The Latins called the country * Anglia\ Now, 
had they at the beginning followed the vernacular speech, they 
should have called it ' Engist's land \ but inasmuch as they did 
not use this term, but called the country itself ' Anglia \ that 
word now stands for the country. For, to speak with Horace? 
* an arbitrary thing indeed is all the rule and law of language ' * ; 
and, to quote the philosopher in his books De Caelo^ * we have 
to speak as the many speak, but we should think with the few ' ^ ; 

* Orig. and F. *raare occidentale * ; an evident mistake. ^ ^ g Kilpatrick. 
' * Engist Land, hoc est terra Engisti.* * Ars Poet. 72. 

* Major's second quotation of these words ; cf. Bk. I. ch. iv. I have not 
found the very words in the De C<ulo^ but in Bk. 11. ch. ii. of that work Aristotle 
deals with our use of such expressions as * above and below \ * right and left \ 


that is, our language must be that of the common people and 
the multitude, but our thoughts should be the thoughts of the 
few — that is, of the wise ; for, comparatively, the wise are few. 
We feel therefore that the word * Anglia' stands for the * land Angiia. 

Now since the Saxons had apportioned among themselves 
the richer part of the kingdom, Vortiger, with the Britons, 
made for that part, of difficult approach, which is called 
Wales ; and there, on Mount Breigh ^, began to build a fortress, 
the strongest he could, for defence against the Saxons; 
but this work he could no way complete, for, build what he 
might by day, at night it crumbled to ruin. And seeing this, 
Vortiger marvelled not a little, and gathered to him the wise 
men among the Britons, demanding of them the cause of this 
instability. And they, when they had taken counsel together, 
make answer that there was need of the blood of one bom of a 
woman who had never known a man, that he must place this 
blood in the fortress, and that so he should be able to build it 
securely \ It may be that they were unable to tell him the 

in respect of things in nature which are not thus conditioned, and justifies such 
use. In the 45th question of the 15th distinction of the In Quarium Major says 
that a man who affects singularity of speech should not attempt to converse with 
his fellows ; he should rather betake himself to the caves of the desert. 

^ Cf. Geoffrey of Monmouth, Bk. vi. §§ 17, 18, 19; Hearne's Robert of Glou- 
cester, p. 127; and Drayton's Poly-Olbion, as quoted in Mr. Stuart Glennie's 
Arthurian Localities^ p. xxiv. — 

* And from the top of Brith, so high and wondrous steep. 
Where Dinas Emris stood . . . ' 

'^ An example of a kind of sup>erstition widely spread, and active in some 
countries even at this day. The Times of January 26, 1 891 quotes an 
account, by Mr. Spring, chief engineer of the Kistna bridge, *of an affray 
between the Punjabee workmen and the Telinga inhabitants of the vicinity, 
which . . . seems to have arisen from one of those extraordinary superstitious 
panics ... to the effect that the Government, when commencing a great public 
work, instructs the employes to collect children's heads for the purpose of offer- 
ing a propitiatory sacrifice to the deity*. From the /'/>//^^r il/a// (Allahabad) 
of Feb. 26, 1891, we learn that a rumour *is current amongst the population of 
villages adjacent to the northern section of the Eastern Bengal State Railway, to 
the effect that Government is in want of a large number of human heads for the 
purpose of laying a secure foundation for a mythical bridge near Rajmahut *. 
The building of the Gorai viaduct and of the Hughli railway bridge gave rise to 
like panics; and in the Pioneer Mail of May 27, 1 891, Mr. A. Ross Wilson, 
C.E., in connection with the Benares Riots, in February of that year, gives 

74 JOHN MAJOR^S HISTORY [book ii. 

reason of the instability, and therefore proposed to him a thing 
that they held to be impossible, lest they should otherwise 
discover their ignorance. However that may be, when the 
king got their answer, he sent messengers through all Wales to 
make search for one bom after this sort ; and when these had 
come to a town named Carmadyne ^, the same which afterwards 
was called Carmalin, tired with their journeying they dis- 
mounted near the gate of the city, willing to have some rest 
and refreshment. Close at hand were some young fellows at 
play, and at the end of their game, no uncommon thing, one 
of the youths said angrily to Merlin, * Begone, thou fatherless 
loon ! ' Which when Vortiger'^s messengers heard, they ask 
who then was father to this Merlin ; and the rest are ready 
with their answer, that indeed they know not his father, but 
his mother they know, for she lived in St. Peter'^s Church in 
that same town among the nuns. Learning this, the mes- 
sengers approach the mayor of the town, declaring to him the 
commands of the king. By order of the mayor they carry the 
mother with Merlin her offspring to the king, and he, with the 
The birth judges of the matter, questions her in private concerning 
o er n. JVIerlin'*s father. And she makes answer that she had indeed 
no kind of knowledge who he was. For, she went on to say, 
there came in to her once, when every door was closed, a well- 
favoured man (such at least she thought him), and he had 
many times had to do with her. 

evidence that * in beginning the works towards the filtering beds, there was an 
excitement in consequence of rumours that children were required. They had to 
be killed, it was said, for advancing the work.* I owe these references to my 
cousin, Mr. Archibald Constable, formerly of the Oude and Rohilkund Railway 
Company. I am also indebted to him for pointing out the following sources of 
information on the subject : Notts and Queries, 7th Series, vol. vi. pp. 265, 349 ; 
ibid, vol. vii. p. 13; an article in the Comhill Magazine for Feb. 1887 on 

* Kirk-Grins.' 

^ Caermarthen. * There were two Merlines *, says Giraldus Cambrensis in his 
Itinerary {"^oVis Series ed., vol. vi. p. 133), * the one named also Ambrose (for he 
had two names), begotten of a spirit, and found in the town of Caermarthen, which 
took the name of him [Caervyrdhin] . . . who prophesied under king Vortigern ; 
the other born in Albany or Scotland . . . This Merlin was in the time of king 
Arthur, and prophesied fuller and plainer than the other.* * Kermerdynn ', 

* Kermarden *, * Kayrmerdyn * are other spellings. Cf. Dineley's account of the 
Duke of Beaufort *s Progress through Wales in 1684 ; Lond. 1888. 


This matter may be explained in three ways ; and, firstly, The threefold 
thus: The woman was ashamed to declare the father of ^^JJ'j.^f^^of 
Ambrosius Merlinus — perchance he was a religious, or within Merlin. 
the forbidden degrees, or a man of mean condition — and, 
as women will do, she fell to lying about it. A second 
explanation is this : a succubus demon may have had a 
fruitful seed from some man, and either have secretly opened 
the closed chamber, or entered with the seed by chink or win- 
dow, and then, assuming the body of a man\ have had 
knowledge of the woman, thrown into her the fruitful seed ; 
and thus she might conceive, but not without the seed of 
man. I come now to the third fancy: a demon can open 
a door without a key; for if he can move a horse or a 
body, how much more easily may he take from the lock the 
small iron bolt which keeps it closed, and in secret let in a 
woman'*s lover. There is a gloss ^ upon that of the sixth 
chapter of Genesis, where we read * the sons of God knew the 
daughters of men \ which might be urged in support of the 
second explanation. But against it this is to be objected: 
those whose member is long (an observation made by Aristotle 
in his Problemata^) emit not a fruitful seed; and for this 
reason : that in the distance to be traversed, and the length of 
time before the seed may be taken into the womb, it loses its 

^ For Spirits, when they please, 
Can either sex assume. — Paradise Lost, i. 422. 
^ There were two brief commentaries on the Vulgate known in the middle ages 
by the name of Glosses. The first and more famous was the Glossa Ordinariay 
compiled from the writings of the Fathers, and especially from those of his own 
master, Rabanus Maurus, by Walafridus Strabo, a Benedictine of Fulda, bom in 
806. This Glossa, which was referred to as * the tongue of the Holy Scripture ', 
was quoted as a high authority by Aquinas, and was as familiar to the biblical 
student as the Master of the Sentences was to the scholastic. The second and 
shorter Gloss, the Glossa Inter linearis y so called because it was written between 
the lines of the text, was compiled by Anselm, who taught theology at Paris, and 
was afterwards dean of Laon (died 1 1 17). To these was sometimes added in the 
same volume the Postilla of Nicholas de Lyra, a converted Jew, and afterwards 
a Franciscan friar, circa 1 291, The Glossa Ordinaria was written on the top 
and margins of the page, the Interlinearis between the lines, and the Postilla at 
the foot. A complete edition of these Glosses was printed in seven vols, folio at 
Venice in 1 588, under the title : Biblia sacra cum glossis interlineari et ordi- 
naria, Nic. Lyrani postillis et moralitatilms, Btirgensis additionibtts et Tkuringi 
replicis et indice alphabetico, ' Problem, iv. 21. 



[book n. 

gainst incubi 
s fathers. 

L maxim in 

potency ; therefore, and all the more, will this be true of the 
demon incubus and succubus. And a second objection is this : 
that on this view a virgin might conceive in sensu composito ^, 
a thing that belongs only to the Virgin Mother of Christ. 

Perhaps the first explanation is one to be well pondered, but 
in regard to it I will now say nothing, unless that a demon 
might be able to preserve the potency and warmth of seed. 
The second is not conclusive. I deny that a woman who con- 
ceives in such fashion can be called a virgin, since, whether 
consenting or resisting, she has received the seed of a man, 
whether she were called virgin or not ; but the Virgin Mary 
conceived without the seed of man. The woman in question, 
however, was not without a seed of man ; nor does the gloss on 
the sixth chapter of (Jenesis demonstrate the proposition, since 
by the sons of God are meant the sons of Seth, and by the 
daughters of men the daughters of Cain. I accept the first, 
therefore, or the third view as the more probable, dismissing 
the second as in itself suspicious, and also as failing to prove 
the birth of Merlin without a father. For whosesoever was that 
seed, received by the incubus or the succubus demon (if such 
was indeed the manner of it), that man was Merlin"'s father ; 
and I deny therefore that Merlin had no father. I speak not 
of the absolute power of God ; for God can supply the potency 
of a father'^s seed. By a maxim in theology, whatever God can 
do by means of a secondary cause, that He can do by Himself 

^ A proposition is to be understood in sensu composito when the attribute can 
only be predicated in respect of its subject as affected by some special property, 
or accepted under a certain hypothesis : a proposition is to be understood in 
sensu diviso when that property or hypothetical condition has to be removed 
before the proposition may be a true one. Thus, ' a blind man is unable to see \ 
*what God foresees necessarily comes to pass', are true in sensu composite^ 
false in sensu diviso. On the other hand, ' a blind man is able to see ', * what 
God has foreseen may not come to pass \ are true in setisu diviso, false in sensu 
composito, — Cf. Signoriello : Lexicon PeHpateticum, p. 66 (Neapoli, i88l). For 
example : theologians commonly remark that when Isaiah said ' a virgin shall 
conceive', he did not mean a virgin in sensu diviso (i,e, one who was a virgin up 
to that point), but he meant a virgin in sensu composito, a virgin after or includ- 
ing the idea of conception. Again, when the Thomist theologians are pressed 
with the objection that their * physical premotion ' destroys the freedom of the 
will, they reply that the will is free to resist such grace in sensu diviso though 
not in sensu composito. See on this subject Kenan's Studies in Religious History 
— * Congregation de auxiliis *, p. 381. 


alone. For, granting the opposite, God when He worked with 
a secondary cause would be more mighty than when He worked 
by Himself alone — which to say is impious. 

Merlin then denounced the wise men of Wales (and in this 
matter I count them as fools, that they did not declare at once 
their ignorance — for to every mortal man far more things must 
be unknown than known), and shows to the king the true 
cause of the instability of his building ; for he commands the 
workmen of the king to dig deeper into the earth below the 
fortress. This doing, they find underground a large lake. He 
then demanded of the wise men what would be found at the 
bottom of the lake, and when they said that indeed they knew 
not, he causes the water to be drawn off and carried away by 
channels ; for Merlin affirmed that there were at the bottom 
two caverns, and in these two dragons — which afterward were Dragons foun 
found there sleeping, as Merlin had said, — and the one was 
white, and the other red, and once disturbed they fell to fierce 
combat one with another ; and the white dragon drove the red 
dragon to the far end of the lake, and then the red dragon 
turned upon the white one, and forced him in like manner to 
fly. Now, while they were thus in mutual combat, the king 
inquired of Merlin what these dragons portended, and Merlin 
made answer that the white dragon meant the Saxons, and the 
red dragon the Britons, who with great bloodshed should be 
driven from their country; and, as to things that concerned 
the king, he said that before fifteen days had passed the 
brothers of Constantius would arrive, with intent to kill the 
king ; wherefore let him leave the building of his fortress. 

Many things of this sort the demon was able to reveal to Merlin's gift < 
Merlin — such as that of the fighting dragons and the lake ; ^hen^Srha< 
but as to things future and contingent, — for example, that**- 
the Saxons should conquer the Britons, or that the brothers of 
Constantius would slay king Vortigcr, — the demon had not the 
power to foretell with certainty. He can indeed read the signs 
of the times and forecast the future more clearly than is 
possible to man; but the purely contingent he cannot with 
certainty foretell. 



[book II. 


Death of 




CHAP. V. — Of Aurelius Ambrosias and his reign, 

Meanwhii^, and not many days thereafter, Aurelius Am- 
brosius and his brother Uther land at Totnes ^ with a large 
army. The Britons go eagerly to meet them with an auxiliary 
force, that they may make Ambrosius their king. Without 
resistance on the way he made for London, and there received 
the sceptre of sovereignty. Vortiger, when he learned this, 
fled to a certain stronghold of Wales, by name Gerneth * ; 
Aurelius Ambrosius set fire thereto, and the devouring flames 
made an end of Vortiger and his men. This done, Aurelius 
Ambrosius sends an embassy to Constantius, king of the Scots, 
and to the Picts, to the end they should help him in driving 
Engist and the heathen out of the island. The Picts made 
answer that they were under a treaty with the Saxons, and 
therefore refuse their help ; but Constantius the Scot sends an 
auxiliary force, under a certain general of renown, to the aid 
of Aurelius. While the war was going on, Constantius died 
without issue, and to him succeeded his nephew Congal, son to 
his brother Dungard, who ratified the treaty of peace with the 
Britons which had been begun by Constantius, and thus a 
continuous war went on among the four peoples. For the 
Britons and the Scots on one side fought against the Saxons 
and the Picts on the other. Whence this of Bede : Between 
the Saxons and the Picts, whom one and the same necessity 
had drawn to make a common stand, the war is carried on 
with their joint forces against the Britons and the Scots*. 
In the sixteenth year of the reign of this Congal, Saint Gabrian *, 

^ Cf. Geoffrey of Monmouth, Bk. viii. § i. 

' Called in a footnote to Hearne's Robert of Gloucester, p. 135, * Genor castel 
in Yrchne *. Cf. the Merlin of the Early English Text Society, and specially 
the Introduction by Mr. W. D. Nash, on * Merlin the Enchanter and Merlin the 

' Bede : H, E, \. 20. 

* Gabrianus, or rather Gibrianus, is claimed as a Scottish saint by Boece, 
Leslie, Camerarius, and Dempster, who calls him Gibirinus. But Flodoard, the 
historian of the church of Rheims (Bk. I v. ch. ix,; ed. Guirot, p. 525), says 
expressly that he came from Ireland, or, as an ancient breviary of Rheims 
explains, ' insulam Hibemiam in qua est Scotia*. Saint Gibrian, who was a 
priest, took with him into France six brothers and three sisters, who established 


a Scot, with a following of brethren and sisters, is found leading 

a life of austerity near to Rheims in Gaul, and there be and 

they now rest. Engist was defeated by Aurelius Ambrosius The defeat 

and the Scots, and therefore he gathered a small army and ° 

hastened to the Picts, that he might thus increase its numbers ; 

but he was intercepted by the Britons and the Scots, and with 

almost his whole following was put to the sword. Engisf's 

son Ochta, however, fled to York ; but when he could no Ochia or Oth 

longer defend that city, he asked for mercy. Mercy he 

obtained, and likewise the land of Galloway, which was 

bestowed on him and his people — that land in which the 

Blessed Ninian was buried. In the end Aurelius Ambrosius Death of 

perished by poison ; perchance it was a certain heathen Saxon 

that did the deed, disguised as a monk, that he might the 

better take the king unawares. He was buried in the 

monastery of Stonehenge, which Aurelius himself had built 

in honour of the Britons that had been slain by Engist. 

At his death there was seen a star of singular brightness, which A comet seen 
they call a comet ; the same portends the death of princes, as may portend. 
Aristotle says in his book concerning Meteors ^. But, what- 

tbemselves on the river Mame. He died and was buried in the country, in the 
diocese of Chalons, but the renown of the miracles wrought through his interces- 
sion caused his body to be exhumed and translated to Rheims. His feast was 
kept on the 8th of May, the day of his translation. 

^ Cf. Meteorologicorum IUk I. cc. vi. vii. for Aristotle's opinion about comets. 
Professor Copeland, Astronomer-Royal for Scotland, has been kind enough to 
supply me with the following references to the supposed influence of comets : — 
In Pingr^'s Comitographie^ tom. I. (Paris, 1783), pp. 313 and 314, will be 
found about all that is known concerning the comet which appeared at the death 
of Aurelius Ambrosius. Sigebert's Chronographia^ as stated at the head of p. 
237 («. c,\ appeared in 15 13, and was doubtless well known to Major. In the 
classics there are many allusions to the supposed effects of comets : particularly 
in Aratus ; Claudian, whose line {de hello Getico^ 243) * in coelo nunquam spectatum 
impune cometam' was being constantly quoted in the middle ages; Juvenal, 
vi. 407, * Instantem regi Armenio Parthoque cometen Prima videt *; Manilius 
(Astron, i. 890) ; Virgil (Georg, i. 488 ; Aen, x. 272) ; Lucan ; Silius Italicus ; 
Tibullus (ii. 5, 71) ; Valerius Flaccus; and Statins {Theb, i. 707-9), *quis letifer 
annus Bella quibus populus, mutent quae sceptra cometae \ Almost the only 
printed work on comets extant in 1520 was Thurecensis phisiti Tractaius de 
Cometis {s.a. circa 1474), in which there is a good deal about their supposed 
evil effects. But in Lubienictz, Thcatntm Cometarum (Amstel. 1667), vol. 
ii. will be found the fullest particulars of all the misfortunes that have accom- 
panied the appearance of Hairy Stars. . 



[book II. 

near the comet. 

ever the philosophers may say, I can see no cause in nature 
why such a portent should rather occur in the case of the 
death of kings than of their subjects ; and yet such things we 
read, and in our own day we have seen comets at the death of 
many kings, discerned even over the countries of kings at the 
point of death. The meaning therefore of comets I leave to 
the divine pleasure and free will. Yet by means of comets 
does God very often reveal to princes their approaching death, 
that, abandoning their sins, they may quickly betake them to 
repentance. Of certain comets, however, the causes are purely 
natural ; yet even so there is no absurdity in opening up some 
meaning that they may contain for us. For from eternity 
God has seen with clearness the whole future contingent, and 
has given signs of certain effects, and the natural causes of 
these signs productive of such effects, as we can see in the case 
of the rainbow, treated in the book concerning Meteors ^, and 
A dragon seen in the book of Genesis *. Near to this comet was a dragon, 

which sent forth rays eastward. Uther, Merlin, and many 
more, saw this comet, and Merlin declared to Uther its hidden 
signification. Through this comet he knew Aurelius Ambrosius, 
though the two were far distant from one another, to be dead. 
By the ray to the east, he declared that Uther should have a 
son, who should gain possession of both Gauls and many king- 
doms in the east, and who should far excel in renown all the 

After the death of Aurelius Ambrosius, therefore, Uther 
begins to reign, and in memory of the portent he ordered 
that two dragons should be painted, the one of which he ever 
carried before him in battle, while the other he left behind him 
in Winchester, and for this reason he was called by the Britons 
Uther Pendragon. With Gouran the Scot, son of Dongard, 
after the manner of his ancestors, he made a treaty of peace. 
But this Gouran fell by the treachery of his nephew, the son 
of his brother. Ochta and Ossa, the sons of Engist, soon 
rebelled against Uther Pendragon, and in a pitched battle he 
defeated them, and had them imprisoned at London. Uther 
thereafter, being enraged against the Earl of Cornwall, laid 


The deeds of 
Uther Pen- 

^ Arist. Meteorologicorum lib, iii. c. iv. 

' Gen. ix. 13. 


siege to his castle, and as he lusted to lie with the wife of the 

earl, he changed himself by means of Merlin'^s incantations into 

the outward seeming of her husband, and so, the woman all 

ignorant of the crime, he had to do with her, and by her he Birth of Arthu 

b^at Arthur, afterwards king. Herein Merlin sinned, in co- MerUn's crinw 

operating with the king, so that he should have carnal dealing 

with the wife of another, nor can he by any means be cleared 

of blame in the matter. 

Many rhymes are current as to all that Merlin foretold His prophecie 
in the presence of king Vortiger as about to happen ; but 
they are ambiguous, being of this nature : that till the 
event his prophecies are not recognised as such. Wherefore, 
to augur anything from his prophecies is as if one had to 
find one^s way through the mists of a clouded sky^. I 
should have placed more faith in the prophecies of this 
man had he foretold with certainty the purely contingent. 
That method of proceeding is but darkness. Quite other- 
wise does it stand with John the Evangelist in the Apoca- 
lypse, a book which the Church has received as divinely 
inspired, and in such a matter the Church cannot err. 
Merlin it merely permits to be read ^. I shall say but little 
of these prophecies, but where now and again the English 
chroniclers make mention of them, I shall use the opportunity 
for a mere word of remark ^. 

CHAP. Wl.—Of King AHhur. 

Concerning the life of king Arthur, I find a great variety of 
statement. For he died in the year of our Lord five hundred 

^ Quocirca est tenebrosa aqua in nubibus aeris de illius prophetiis augurari. 
Cf. ante, Bk. I. ch. vii. p. 42. 

? Alain de Lille (Alanus ab insulis), a Cistercian monk, and one of the 
greatest of the earlier scholastics, doctor universalis', — born 11 14, died 1202, — 
wrote, about 1 1 70, a commentary on Merlin, which was printed at Frankfort, 
in 1603, under the title Commentarii in divinationes propheticas Mcrlini Cole- 
donii cum kujus vaticiniis. Merlin's Prophecies had previously been published 
in Spanbh (Burgos, 1498 ; Seville, 1500), and in French, at Paris, by Robert de 
Borron, 1498; in Italian (Venice, 1480; Florence, 1495). The first English 
edition seems to have been that of London, 1529. 

' Cf. Bk. IV. ch. viii., on the prophecy about Henry the Second and his son ; 
Bk. IV. ch. xix., about Edward the First ; Bk. v. ch. vii., on the death of 
Edward the Second. 




[book lU 

The death of 
Arthur, and his 
assumption of 
the kingdom. 

How the trans- 
ference of kingly 
power mav 
legitimately be 

The natural 
of Arthur. 

He determines 
to destroy the 

and forty-two — ^but inasmuch as he was a bastard, his origin is 
a more doubtful matter, and it is a question how he came to 
his kingdom. For Anna, the sister of Aurelius, bore in lawful 
marriage these children, namely Valvanus, a man illustrious in 
arms and of bright renown among the Britons, and Modred the 
elder: both of these she bore to Loth, the lord of the Lothians, 
who also was the father of Thenew\ the mother of Saint 
Kentigern, whence by right of succession the kingdom of the 
Britons should have fallen to Modred, But here the Britons 
say that Modred and Valvanus were under age, and as the need 
was urgent, and a hostile invasion was imminent, they were held 
to be unfit to guide the affairs of the Britons. Wherefore into 
the hands of Arthur, albeit he was a bastard, they gave the 
reins of government. Now I am not prepared to deny that, in 
case of necessity, it is within the rights of the people to transfer 
from one race to another the kingly power ; but let that be 
always done after weighing carefully all the circumstances and 
with deliberation. And they should rather have said that to 
Modred, inasmuch as he was under age, a coadjutor should 
have been given. However this matter should have been under- 
taken, what is certain is this : that Arthur, youth as he was, 
was declared king of the Britons. But his natural endowment 
was of the noblest ; he was fair and beautiful to look on, of a 
most chivalrous spirit, and none was more ambitious of warlike 
renown. The Saxons he drove from the island, the Scots and 
the Picts likewise (if we are to credit British chroniclers) he 
brought under subjection, and compelled to obedience. At 
Edinburgh, in Scotland, was Arthur^s kingly seat, and to this 
day that spot near Edinburgh bears his name ^. He is said to 
have tarried some time in the castle of Stirling ; but the Scots 
were not then in possession of that region. The king of the 
Scots (as they relate) went out to war with Arthur, and so 
became subject to him, or was joined in a league of friendship 
or by necessity. He set before him to destroy all the Scots 
once for all, and would have done this had they not come to 

^ Orig. and F. * Thameten . . . genuit *. Thenew is still honoured in Glasgow 
as Saint Enoch. 

' This mention of Arthur's Seat, and that of Dunbar in * The Flyting * — part I. 
p. 22, S.T. Soc. ed. — are about the earliest in otur literature. 


him as suppliants. Such is the relation of G-eofirey of Mon- 
mouth ^. And not only did he subdue the whole of Britain, 
but also Ireland, Norway, the islands, the whole cluster of isles 
that are scattered about the western coasts of Britain — and yet 
not these alone, but the Grauls and the neighbouring Germans 
he brought under his rule, and bestowed great territories on his 
own illustrious warriors. To his cousin Loth he gave the 
kingdom of Norway and all Lothian (of which part I am a 
native). For this reason, in the Gests of Arthur, Loth is The achieve- 
commonly* styled *of Lothian\ From every quarter there came LSSi^Mfth^' 
to him illustrious men, ambitious of renown in war. All of JJ^^® P^^ce o 
them he received with gracious liberality, and bestowed on them 
munificent marks of favour. In Cornwall he held his Round The Round 
Table, at which sat his chief men in such wise that no strife or 
struggle of priority might arise among them. In time of war 
his harness was of the noblest, for his breastplate was worthy of His armour. 
so great a king, and on his head he bore a golden helmet 
adorned with the image of a dragon ; on his shoulders too a 
mighty shield he bore, on which was painted the form of the 
Holy Virgin. At his girdle hung Calibur, the best of swords, 
and he bore a long lance whose name was Ron. 

The Britons reckon Arthur among the Nine Just Men. The Nine Jus 
That you may understand what I have now said, know that ^^ 
certain peoples, and among these in a special manner the 
Britons, count nine just men, whom by universal consent they 
hold (albeit erroneously) to have title to this distinction: 
three of them heathen ; three, of the Hebrew race ; and the 
like number, worshippers of Christ. Among heathens they 
count Hector of Troy, Alexander of Macedon, and Julius 
Caesar; among Hebrews, David, Joshua, and Judas Macca- 
haeus; among Christians, Arthur, Charles the Great, and 
Godfrey of Boulogne. Now, though certain of these have 
gained renown among men in the matter of war, yet others 
have been more eminent soldiers than many of these. And 

1 Bk. ix. § 6. 

' Orig. and F. * comiter * ; F. in Errata * communiter '. Orig. prints the 
word as a contraction ' coiter ' ; and two lines lower prints 'comiter et liberaliter ' 
vrithout contraction, which is probably the reason for reading ' communiter ' in 
this case. 

84 JOHN MAJOR'S HISTORY [book ii. 

what title to the name of ^jusf* shall we find in Caesar, con- 
sidering this, that he overthrew an aristocratic republic, the 
most famous since the beginning of the world, and by* the 
exercise of tyranny assumed the sole power to himself? And 
though Hannibal of Carthage, himself a soldier of splendid 
valour, granted the first place to Alexander of Macedon, I at 
least am not able to assent to such an attribution, seeing that 
through mere lust of rule he aimed at gaining for himself the 
kingdoms of others, that no way pertained to him. This triple 
trinity of just men others, and more wisely, are slow to admit ; 
but, however that may be, Arthur was renowned in war. I 
Anguischei. have read, in the histories of the Britons, that Anguischel, 

king of the Scots, when he was about to lead a great force 
beyond sea to fight along with Arthur, marched against the 
emperor of the Romans, with Arthur returned to Britain, 
and was slain in his first conflict along with Gawain against 
Modred; and Arthur caused his body to be earned with all 
honour into Scotland. While Arthur was at war with the 
Romans, news was brought to him that Modred was unlawfully 
intimate with his queen Gaunora, and had proclaimed himself 
king of Britain. Considering this, he returned to Britain, and 
Modred met him with a great army ; for Modred had with him 
various among the Britons, Saxons, Picts, and Scots, and those 
who were ill-affected towards Arthur. For albeit the king of 
the Scots loved Arthur on account of his uprightness, among 
the Scots themselves he was hated, perchance because they 
desired to serve under Modred for the pay that he would give 
them. In the end there were fought three battles between 
Arthur and Modred, and both Arthur and Modred thus came 
by their end. But Arthur, when he knew his wound was 
mortal, said that he was setting out for a certain island that he 
might there be cured, and that he would thereafter return to 
reign again. Wherefore the Britons had the expectation that 
The proverb Arthur after a long time would return. So that this came to 
conccrnmg the be a proverb when one who shall never come back was yet 
Arthur. looked for — * You are waiting for such an one, as the Britons 

for their Arthur \ This is but the blind affection of a people 
The Jetum of f^j. their king, whom, all dead though he be, their unreason 
Burgundy and leads them to think of as still among the living. Just the same 

James the Scot 


has been said of Charles of Burgundy ; and of our own James, 
the fourth of the name, a like invention has found favour K 
Hence you can understand the readiness with which the 
common people believed the Stygian Jupiter, Hercules, and 
such men as that sort of people is prone to marvel at, to be 
immortal ; and how the wiser sort, who knew the groundlessness 
of this belief, were yet unwilling to go contrary to it, lest the 
Ignorant in their indignation should destroy them. But, how- 
ever this may be, Arthur was buried in Glastonbury, and at his 
burying was sung a verse in no way differing from the opinion 
of the vulgar, which verse runs thus : 

' Here lies Arthur^ g^eat king was he, and king will be.' '^J Epitaph 

The extravagant laudation of Arthur by the Britons leads to 
a partial doubt of the facts of his life. The prayers that were 
made to him from a bed of sickness, and many other things 
that are related concerning Arthur and Valvanus, in respect to 
events that are said to have come to pass in Britain at that time 
— all these I count as fiction, unless indeed they were brought 
about by craft of demons. And for this reason certain writers, 
like him of Bergamo in the Supplement to his Chronicles^, hold 
Arthur himself to have been a magician. But to this belief, 
about a king of such renown, I cannot give assent. 

CHAP. Vll. — Concerning Eockodius, Aidan, and Eugemus, kings 
of Scotland, and men of noted sanctUy thai were horn in their reigns. 

EuGENiDs, or Eochodius *, on the death of his father's brother, Eochoditis. 
succeeded to the kingdom of the Scots, and he reigned three- 

^ Bishop Leslie says in his History, as to the fate of James the Fourth after 
Flodden, that ' many have this opinion, that our king yet lives ; and now in 
pilgrimage with far nations, in special Jerusalem, where the Sepulchre of our 
Saviour, and other holy places he visits, and in dule and dolour devoutly drives 
over the rest of his days '. — Father Cody's edition of Father Dalrymple*s transla- 
tion of Leslie (with modernised spelling), part ill. p. 146. Cf. his note upon 
the passage. 

' Jacques- Philippe de Foresta, called Bergamensis after the town of Lombardy 
where he was bom. He wrote a chronicle from the creation of the world till 
the year 1505, to which he made a Supplement. He was also the author of a work 
De SeUctis et Claris Mulieribtis, and of another under the title Confessionaie or 
Inierrogatorium, He died in 151 5. — [Moreri.] 

* Orig. and F. ' Archadius ' ; F. in Errata ' Eochodius '. 

86 JOHN MAJOR'S HISTORY [book it. 

and-twenty years. In his days came Saint Columba from 

Ireland, and gave to Brude, king of the Picts, full instruction 

in the faith, and built in Scotland many monasteries. A con- 

Columba. temporary of Columba, and his very dear friend, was the 

Kentigern. Blessed Kentigem, who was renowned for many miracles. He 

Glasgow rests in GlasTOW. In honour of him was founded the church 

of Glasgow, second to no church in Scotland for its beauty, the 

multitude of its canons, and the wealth of its endowments. 

Not long time thereafter the chapter of Glasgow had gained 

so great a fame for wise and weighty counsel that men of 

renown among the Westerns were ready in a doubtful suit to 

place the whole decision of the same in its hands. About this 

Baidred buried time lived Saint Baldred. It is related of him that his body 

m three places. ^^ j^j entire in three churches not far distant one from the 

other: Aldhame, namely, Tyninghame^ and Preston; of which 

the two first named are villages distant from Gleghomie about 

one thous£uid paces; the third, one league. In these three 

places Saint Baldred taught the people by word and example, 

and on his death all three fall to arms in strife for the posses- 

Whether a iwdygion of his body. The same body was found numerically* 

rent places. in different parts of the house, and thus each of these 

villages rejoices at this day in the possession of Saint Baldred^s 
body. I know that there are not wanting theologians who 
deny that such a thing as this is possible to God, namely, that 
the same body can be placed circumscriptive ^ in different places ; 

* Tynigamen. 

* 'numero*. Cf. Signoriello : Lexicon peripcUeticum^ pp. 1 50, I5I» x.9. GB- 
NERICE — SPECIFICE — NUMERICE : ' A specific difference is formal, since it takes 
place in respect of the form ; a numerical difference is called material, because 
matter is the principle whence proceed several individuals of the same species.' 

* * Circumspective * is opposed to * definitive ' and * reflective'. Cf. Signoriello 
u,s, pp. 64, 65 : ' That thing is said to be " circumscriptive " or '* commensura- 
ative *' in a place, which occupies that place by contact of dimensive quantity ; in 
in such fashion, indeed, that each of its parts corresponds to the single parts of 
the place, and so that the whole is included in the whole place. '* Definitive ** is 
said of that which is in a certain place, but which does not occupy space per con- 
factum virtutis, but by operation, as is the case with angels, or^fr informationem, 
like as the soul is within the body. " Reflective " is said of that which knows no 
determination of place, but is whole in every place and whole in every part of a 
place; and that belongs to God alone. It is fitting that the body and an 
Angel and God should be occupants of place in differing fashions.' 


but their proof of this I cannot allow, as I have shown at more 
length elsewhere in my commentary upon the fourth book of 
the Sentences ^. 

Aidan, king of the Scots, took so much to heart the death Aidan. 
of Saint Columba that he survived him but a short time. Him 
Eugenius succeeded in the kingdom. In his days Saint Dron- Eugenius. 
stan *, an uncle on the mothers side of the king, led the life of ^">"»<*""*- 
a monk, and was renowned for the miracles that he did. Saint 
Gillenus \ too, a Scot, gained fame in Gaul by his miracles, and Gilienus. 

* The late Bishop Forbes, in the article baldred in Smith's Dictionary of 
Christian Biography^ quotes a similar legend, as to the triplication of his body, 
in the case of the Welsh saint Theliaus (see Capgrave*s lAg^ Aur. fol. cclxxxi. 
verso), and refers to this passage of Major's In Quartum^ question 4th of the 
loth distinction, where, in treating of the Holy Eucharist, Major ' seeks to prove, 
by the example of the body of St. Baldred, that the same body can be in diverse 
places simul et semel*. Major there writes that ' God can place the same body 
circumscriptive in two, three, and so on without end, totally diverse places. 
The proof of this conclusion : in the Life of Saint Martin we read that the 
Blessed Ambrose while celebrating at Milan was present at the burial of Saint 
Martin at Tours. The same appears in regard to the body of the Blessed 
Baldred, which is said to be at Aldhamc, Preston, and Tyninghame, near to 
Gleghomie and those parts. This is a trite story, and an opponent will deny it, 
smd I confess that he may do so without incurring the charge of contamination 
of the faith, since many doubtful things are put down in some Lives of Saints. 
The fact is proved by the appearance of Christ to Peter as Peter was flying 
from Rome — for the place is known well enough, namely, Domine, Quo Vadis ? * 
Major goes on to suggest an instance where the body of Sories (a favourite figure 
in hi* arguments) may be found in two places — say Seville and Edinburgh. He 
gives a number of reasons for the possibility of such an occurrence, and concludes : 

• For the'*e reasons I hold by the affirmative side of the title of this question — 
«ay, that God is able to place the body circumscriptive in several places, just so 
many as pleases Him. * It is in the course of the same * question * that Major 
says that God may have made the whole body of Eve by placing the rib in 
many places, and dismisses the objections to this theory that had been raised by 
Gregory of Ariminum — * scd de hoc suo loco *. 

' The founder of the monastery of Deer in Aberdeenshire. Cf. Dr. John 
Stuart's Preface to The Book of Deer^ published by the Spalding Club in 1869. 
Dronstan's name assumes the forms of Drostan, Dunstan, Dustan, Throstan, and 
the honorific form of Modrustus. 

• Gillenus has no place in the Dictionary of NcUional Bio^aphy, His name 
occurs in Smith and Wace's Dictionary of Christian Biography^ as that of a per- 
son * spoken of by the Scotch annalists, Fordun, John Major, Camerarius, and 
Dempster, as a Scot who lived in Gaul, and was a disciple or contemporary of 
St. Columbanus*. Perhaps the name 'Gillenus' is one of the many forms of 

• Kilian '. The Bollandist biographer at least says of Saint Kilian's name : ' S. 
Kiliani nomen moUiri et reception modo efformavimus, tametsi non ignoremus 
varias ejusdem expressiones, Kyllena, Killena, Killinus, Killenus, Quillianus, 



[book n. 


The ways to 

the sanctit)' of his life. In that same France our own Saint 
Columbanus^ was held in veneration for his miracles. And Saint 
Fiacre \ of royal birth, led the austere life of a hermit in the 
diocese of Meaux. For he knew that to the land of promise 
no road lay but by the Red Sea, the desert, or the crossing of 
Jordan. By the Red Sea the martyrs of the new-born church 
entered the Jerusalem which is above, and by the washing of 
regeneration, that is, the passing of Jordan, little children 
belong to the land of the second promise. And when the 
Blessed Fiacre was now well stricken in years, the way to para- 
dise by way of Jordan did not suffice him, nor did tyrants now 
call for the blood of martyrs ; wherefore he chose for himself 
the third way, that is, the desert, for severer penance, that he 
might thus most surely gain the heavenly paradise. By reason 
of the many miracles that he did, and the sanctity of his life, 
which was known of all men, that place is visited yearly from 
all parts of France. 

Chillianus, Chilianus, Cilianus, Caelianus et alias apud Serarium et alibi.' The 
Gillenus of the text, however, was not, in all probability, the Saint Kilian 
who was the apostle of Franconia (martyred ad. 6S9), but rather the Kilian 
mentioned by Dr. Lanigan in his EccUsicutical History of Ireland, vol. ii. p. 443 
(Jl, circa A.D. 650), who was buried at Montreuil in Picardy, 'where his relics 
are held in veneration \ 

^ Saint Columbanus, the apostle of the Burgundians of the Vosges district of 
Alsace, and founder of the monasteries of Luxeuil (a.d. 590) and Bobbio (A.D. 
613), was bom in Leinster about A.D. 543. 

' According to Dr. Lanigan it was after A.D. 628 that Saint Fiacre withdrew, 
from Ireland, to France, where he erected at Breuil a monastery in honour of 
the Virgin Mary. He was the first cultivator of the forest between Meaux and 
Jouarre, and became the patron saint of gardeners. 

The name of this saint is now best known in its transference to the hackney 
carriage of Paris, which got its name from the fact that the proprietor of the 
Hotel de St. Fiacre, in the Rue St. Martin, in 1640 kept carriages on hire. Over 
his doorway was an image of the saint. This meaning of ' fiacre ' had not become 
so common in 1650 as to find a place in the French and English dictionary of 
Cotgrave, who describes ' fiacre' as the * Mai S. Fiacre, a kind of scab, or great 
wart, in the fundament * — for the removal of which the help of the saint was 
invoked. There is a legend that after Henry the Fifth of Kngland had been 
defeated at Baugy by Charles the Sixth of France and his Scottish troops, the 
Englishman destroyed in his rage the monastery of St. Fiacre — * parce que ce 
Saint eiait un Prince d'Ecosse *— and was forthwith attacked by this malady. 
Unless a reference to Saint Fiacre in one of John Major's own works — In 
Quartum (ed. 1 521), 45th question of the 15th distinction— must be regarded 
in the light only of a singular coincidence, there would seem to have been a 
much earlier connection in Paris between Saint Fiacre and the hiring of horses ; 


CHAP. VIII. — Concerning the arrival of Gormund,Jirst in Ireland, 
then in Britain, and his cruel dealings with both lands ; also of the rule 
of the Saxons in Britain under Gormund, 

About this time a man of Africa named Gormund, famous The cruelty of 
in war, a heathen too, but aiming at new territories, made his 
descent into Ireland with a large army, and brought into sub- 
jection a great part of that island. And when the Saxons in The perfidy of 
Britain came to hear of this, being inferior to the Britons, they * °°** 
sent an embassy to Gormund the African, praying him to 
come to Britain, and promising to confer on him the supreme 
power. Whereupon he lands in Britain, and, with help of 
the Saxons, wrought indignity on the churches and on all that 
pertained to the Christian relisnon, and so restored the heathen The establish- 

ment of 

way and infidel worship among the Britons. But Gormund heathenism, 
tarried no long time in Britain, but led all his African train 
into Gaul, that by land he might return to his own ; and to 
the Saxons who had been at his bidding in the war against the The Saxon rule. 
Britons he made over their territory, and so the heatlien came 
to hold that part of Britain which the Saxons call England. 
One may believe, however, that with them some Britons were 
mingled. Hence it is plain that among the Britons the Chris- 
tian religion flourished in Britain, and oftentimes was over- 
thrown by the unbelievers. 

CHAP. IX. — Of the outward form and appearance of tlie English, 
and how they differ in appearance and stature from the rest of nations ; 
likewise of the mission of Augustine for t/ieir coiroersion, and of his 

When Gregory the First happened once upon certain English The English ar« 
children at Rome, and asked who these might be, and was }jJ^*ij*JJf *^ ^° 
then told that they were English and heathen, he answered : 
* Angels indeed they are in outward seeming, for so their 
countenances bear witness; endeavour must be made that 
they become angels too in their mind and faith.** For we 

observe that near the Equator, near the path of the sun, 

■ , 

for in that work, where Major is dealing with the relations of buyer and seller, 
he uses this illustration among many others : ' Suppose that I hire out my horse 
to you for the purpose of going to and returning from Saint Fiacre, and you pay 
me fourpence a day for the use of it . . . ' 

90 JOHN MAJOR^S HISTORY [book ii. 

those whom we call Ethiops and Indians are born black, inas- 
much as heat, the mother of swarthiness, is found in moist 
Differences of bodies. At a greater distance from the path of the sun, SicL 
anoe. Meroes and £ta Syenes \ and Bca Alexandrias, men are born 

blackisli, and these we call white Moors. Consequently as we 
approach more nearly to the Arctic pole, the tendency is ever 
to a less degree of blackness ; and thus, as inhabiting ever a 
colder region the one than tlie other, the Gauls are seen to be 
the most of them ^ whiter than the Spaniards, the Britons than 
the Gauls, the Germans than the Britons, the Goths than the 
Germans. If you take the complexion of individuals only, it 
is true that you shall find certain northerners nowise fair or 
beautiful. Beyond the Arctic circle, and close by the Arctic 
pole, they say that some are foul of aspect, but this comes 
from skiey influence' and not from the cold. In some parts of 
Africa they relate that men are born with the head of a dog. 
This too is a matter of skiey influence*, and carries with it no 
other inference. The same rule as to white and black men 
holds good from the Equator to the Antarctic pole ; and if 
certain among the northern peoples have got a changed com- 
plexion in old age from an intemperate way of life, this pro- 
ceeds from their evil habits and not from the aspect of their 
sky. Nbw the English are both a northern people, and their 
young men use no wine, so that it is no marvel if their bodily 
form is of graceful beauty, and most of all in the time of youth. 
To the English then, in the five hundred and eighty-fifth 
year after the Virgin bore a son, Gregory sends that most 
The monk excellent man — the monk Augustine. When this same Augus- 
to^Engiand.^"^ tine had made his landing in Kent, he seeks audience of the 

king of Kent, of the race of Engist, by name Adelbert, and 
sought from him allowance to preach the Gospel in his king- 

* Cf. Ilerod. ii. 30. Syene is the modern Assouan. * The latitude of Syene — 
24° 5' 23" — was an object of great interest to the ancient geographers. They 
believed that it was seated immediately under the tropic, and that on the day of 
the summer solstice a vertical staff cast no shadow, and the sun's disc was 
reflected in a well at noonday. The statement is indeed incorrect ; the ancients 
were not acqiiain^ed with the true tropic : yet at ihe summer solstice the length 
of the shadow, or :i^ih of ihe staff, could scarcely be discovered, and the 
northern limb of the sun*s disc would be nearly vertical. '—(Smith's DicL ofGeog,) 

2 Orig. *plurimi '; F. *plurimum'. '^ Cf. p. 54, note '. 


dom. Now Adelbert was a man easily bent towards what was 
good, and so granted to Augustine his desire, ministering also 
to him and his following in what was needfuL Augustine 
laboured so strenuously that in a short space of time he 
brought to the faith the king himself and almost the whole 
people of Kent. Passing on to Rochester, he began there too 
to preach the word of God ; but the common people derided 
him, and threw fish-tails at the man of Grod; wherefore 
Augustine made his prayer to God that for a punishment of 
this sin their infants should be bom with tails, to the end they 
might be warned not to contemn the teachers of divine things. 
And for this reason, as the English chroniclers relate, the Some born 
infants were bom with tails. This tailed condition is by no ^^ ^),y ' 
means to be attributed to skiey influences ; nor, at that period, 
do I deem that men were indeed bom with tails ; but for a 
time only, and to the end that an unbelieving race might give 
credence to their teacher, was this punishment inflicted. I 
cannot give my assent to the Scots and the Gauls, who assert 
the opposite. Of his companions, who had come with him 
from Rome, Augustine consecrated two as bishops : Justin, Bishops. 
to wit, whom he placed over the see of Rochester, and Mellitus 
as bishop of London. In the matter of the celebration of 
Easter these two bishops wrote to the Scots. 

CHAP. X. — Of the conversion of Oswald, likewise of the too great 
austerity of the bishop who was sent to him, of the wisdom of bishop 
Aidan, and of the conversion of the Britons to the faith. 

When it came to the knowledge of Oswald, king of the Oswald. 
Bemicians, that the southem Englishmen had piously received 
the word of God, he sends to the elders of the Scots, praying 
that on him they would bestow some grave man, well-fur- 
nished in the Christian faith, as bishop, for he believed that, 
seeing the life and doctrine of such an one, the people that 
was subject to him might be imbued with the Christian 
religion ; for this same Oswald had been for no short time an 
exile from his own kingdom with the Scots. With them he 
had had long experience of the walk and conversation of the 



[book II. 

of Aidan. 

faithful, and the Catholic faith approved itself to him. His 
messenger received from the Scots the warmest welcome, as 
was right; wherefore they sent to him a bishop. But 
this bishop used at the first too great austerity, and so did 
little good with the English. And, returning to his own, 
he said that the English were a race no way inclinable to what 
was good. Now when he was speaking thus in an assembly of 
most religious fathers, one of them, Aidan by name, a most 
honourable man, and withal of utmost perspicacity in judg- 
ment, makes objection in these words : * Perchance thou hast 
not followed the teaching of Paul, and given, first of all, milk, 
and afterwards the stronger food. For thy part it was to lead 
the people by degrees to the faith and to right conduct, — ^to 
make easy the foundation, and afterward to build upon it a 
lofty pile. For "'tis an old proverb : " Feeble beginning shall 
be followed by happier fortune ^^.' And since Aidan spoke so 
shrewdly, and since he was known to be a man of holy life — 
albeit not by all men, for it had been hid under a bushel — they 
make him bishop, and send him with a following of religious 
Aidan is made monks to the English. Upon this matter I prefer to quote 
English Bede rather than our own chroniclers. For the 
Venerable Bede, in the third chapter of the third book of his 
History of the Church of the English people, writes as follows : 
^ [They sent to him] Aidan, a man of a singular mildness of 
disposition and piety and moderation, full of zeal to God, 
although not altogether according to knowledge ; for he was 
wont to keep Easter Sunday after the custom of his own 
people from the fourteenth to the twentieth moon, since in 
this manner too the northern province of the Scots and the 
whole nation of the Picts were in use to celebrate Easter, 
believing that they followed therein the written precept of the 
holy and praiseworthy father Anatolius*, the truth of which 
almost every one can easily determine *. On the arrival of the 
bishop the king granted him, according to his desire, his 


^ Debile principium melior fortuna sequetur. 

' Bishop of Laodicea ; the inventor in a.d. 276 of the Paschal computation. 

5 *Quod quidem an venim sit, penitus quisque facillime agnoscet.* In 
Holder's edition of Bede, the reading is ' quod an uerum sit, peritus quisque 
facillime cognoscit '. 


episcopal see in the island of Lindisfame. And then it was 
truly often a right fair sight, inasmuch as the bishop had not 
perfect mastery of the English tongue, to see the king himself 
interpreting to his chiefs and councillors the heavenly word ; 
for during the long time of his banishment he had perfectly 
learned the language of the Scots. From that time there came 
daily many from tlie country of the Scots to Britain, and from 
those provinces of the English over which Oswald held rule, 
and with great devotion preached the word of God, while those 
among them who had received priestly consecration adminis- 
tered the grace of baptism to all that believed. Churches were 
built here and there ; a joyful people flocked to hear the word 
of God ; lands and estates were granted by the royal bounty, 
for the building of monasteries. The children of the English, 
as well as those of riper years, were instructed by Scottish 
teachers in the study and observance of the discipline known 
among the regulars ; since for the most part these preachers 
were monks. Bishop Aidan was himself a monk, having his 
appointment from the island called Hy^, whose monastery had 
for a long time the pre-eminence among all the monasteries 
of the northern Scots, all tliose of the Picts, and had the direc- 
tion of their peoples. That island belongs indeed by right to 
Britain, for it is separated from that country by a small firth 
only; but it had been long since given by the Picts, who 
inhabit that district of Britain, to the Scottish monks, through 
whose preaching they had come to the faith of Christ.** 

So far Bede, to the letter of his words ; and from his narra- 
tive it is plain that Oswald was filled with zeal towards God. 
One church I know founded in his honour in Lothian : Whit- Lothian. 
tingham, to wit, distant two leagues from Gleghomie. In 
the time of Bede all Lothian was subject to Oswald. And so 
much is clear, because he says that the island of Hii, to the 
north of Arran \ ought to belong to the Britons. This is 
clear, that in the time of Bede, or at least in the time of 
Oswald, few among the Scots were able to speak English. But 
you will say : Aidan was an islander ; therefore your conclusion 

^ i.€, lona. 

* On this indication of geographical position compare note to Book I. p. 37, 
on the island of Sanda as * more northerly than Bute'. 



[book II. 

does not follow. Though it be not a full and logical conclu- 
sion, I must hold it to be a true one ^. 

The life of 

The life of 

The hand 
of Oswald. 

CHAR HI.— Of the Ufe of Oswald and Aidan. 

I RELATE the lives of men who were famed for their piety at 
greater length than those of wamors, to the end that the 
reader may feel his heart grow warm within him and strengthen 
himself with this spiritual marrow. For, to quote from Bede, 
in the fifth chapter of his third book : * Not otherwise was the 
life of Aidan than his doctrine. He had no care or love for 
the things of this world. All that was given to him by the 
kings and rich men of his age he delighted to bestow upon the 
poor when they met him with an entreaty for alms. His habit 
was to travel on foot, and not on horseback — unless by the 
urgency of a greater necessity — from place to place, in town or 
country. Wherever his eye lighted upon any men, were they 
rich or poor, thither upon the spot he turned aside, beseeching 
them, if they were unbelievers, to take the oath of allegiance 
to the faith, and, if they were of the faithful, establishing them 
with words of comfort, and exhorting them by word and deed 
to almsgiving and the practice of good works. Such was his 
daily work.** In the sixth chapter of the same book Bede tells 
how king Oswald once received a prayer for alms from certain 
poor persons as he sat at meat, and how the king broke in 
pieces the silver dish set before him on the table, and gave the 
fragments thereof to the poor. Seeing which, and moved to 
admiration at the pious act, bishop Aidan, for he was present, 
seized the king by the right hand, and said, * Never may this 
hand grow old ! ' — and the event was according to the prayer 
of his benediction. After king Oswald had fallen in battle with 
the heathen, his arm and his right hand in the time of Bede 
did not know decay. Bede tells in his third book of many 
miracles done by the king and bishop Aidan — ^and in point of 
time he was not far removed from them. In the end of the 
fifteenth chapter, after telling of the miracles of Aidan, he has, 

^ The punctuation of Grig, and F. makes different sense here. Grig, is 
evidently right. 


further, this : ' The manner of this miracle I have from no 

doubtful source, for it was told to me word for word by that 

most trustworthy presbyter of our church, Cynimond, and he had 

it from the very presbyter Utha, on whom and through whom 

the same was wrought.*" And his conclusion of the seventeenth 

chapter is in these words : * To say much in few words — so far as 

I learned from those who knew him, he was careful to neglect 

none of those things which are appointed to be done in the 

evangelical, apostolical, or prophetical Scriptures, but laboured 

with all his strength to perform them all. These things I 

much love and admire in the aforenamed bishop, because I 

doubt not that they were well-pleasing to God. But that he A wrong 

did not observe Easter at its proper date, either from ignor- of SSa-!^ 

ance of the canonical time, or, if not ignorant of this, yet 

yielding to the antiquated authority of his own people, I no • 

way praise nor approve. Yet this I approve in him, that in 

his celebration of Easter he had nothing else at he£u*t, he 

revered and he preached nothing else, but what we too hold 

firm, the redemption of mankind by the passion, resurrection, 

and ascension into heaven of Jesus Christ, the Mediator 

between God and man."* So far Bede, word for word. And to 

what he has written I add certain propositions : Aidan had no 

blame, but did well, in celebrating as he celebrated. The Aidan without 

proof of this : For a morally good act it is not essential that fig EjSw-a?! 

the act be directed by true knowledge ; but it is enough that different time. 

it be directed by invincible error ^ ; and such was the case with 

that father. The pontifical human law was against him ; but 

this he was not bound to know; and he ruled his conduct 

herein by sacred Scripture and pious feeling, and in this too 

walked in the footsteps of those who had gone before him. 

In human positive laws every man has a wide latitude of his 


For seven years Aidan held his bishopric in England. To 
him succeeded Finan, a Scot, a monk from the same district Finanus. 
with Aidan, and both in matter of the faith and integrity of 
life he kept fresh the footsteps of his predecessor. Ten years 
only he survived in the exercise of the episcopate. To him 


^ Cf. Bk. III. ch. xi., on the conditions of a morally good action. 



[book n. 




succeeded Colman, of the same region and place in the island of 
Hy ^. In his day arose in England among the princes and the 
clergy the great question as to the observance of Easter. 
Colman claimed to have on his side Aidan, Finan, Saint 
Columba, and Anatolius. On the other side was the greater 
part of the clergy, and chief among them was one Ronan >, a 
Scot by nation, but educated, according to Bede, in Gaul or 
Italy. This was a question merely of observing a law of 
human ordinance, and Colman ought to have yielded to the 
popular feeling, and to the use and wont, if such there were, 
among the Britons ; for the use and wont of a place is to be 
followed, according to the proverb, ^ If you are at Rome do as 
the Romans do\ and the rest. And this has application to a 
law of human imposition, of which I am now speaking. Custom 
is the interpreter of human law, and may restrict and even 
sometimes repeal such law. Not otherwise we find that the 
Gauls eat animal food on the Saturdays ^ between the feasts of 
the Nativity and of the Purification, and do not fast on the 
nine vigils of the Apostles, and in many parts of Spain it is 
the custom to eat the extremities and the inwards of animals 
on all Saturdays whatsoever, with the exception of Lent; 
and yet in such points as these in other kingdoms the common 
human law is just the opposite. Hence is plain that the 
Venerable Bede should not have laid such weight on a point 
like this, when the contention was as to the customary human 
law in a particular locality ; and inasmuch as Aidan and his 
successor had already introduced the Scottish mode into the 
northern parts of England, Colman had no right to insist upon 
the contrary mode, albeit it was the custom of the Romans, 
and of the majority, as in a similar case we have declared con- 
cerning the Gauls and the Spaniards ^ However this may be, 

^ i,e, lona. 

' ' Romanus* Orig. and F. Cf. Bede': H,E, iii. 25. Dempster calls him 
' Romanus ' or ' Romianus ' ; but ' Ronan * is plainly the right form. 

' In diebus Sabbatinis. 

* The reference is to Major's In Quartum, 5th question of the 15th distinc- 
tion. As to the customs of the different countries in the matter of fasting, 
he writes : ' The Gauls are not obliged to fast as often as the Britons ; for the 
Britons fast upon all the principal festivals of Our Lady, though the law enjoins 
fasting only upon the eve [profestum] of the Assumption. On the other hand, 


Colman had no mind to make a long stay among the English, 
but besought them that they would grant him to carry away 
the bones of Saint Aidan as relics. Some part of the bones 
they gave him in answer to his petition, but the remnant they 
kept in the bishopric over which he had held rule in England. 

To Colman succeeded Tuda, a Briton. He had been educated Tuda. 
among the southern Scots, and, as the manner of the Scots 
was, he wore a tonsured Religious men, both English and Scots, 
followed Colman into Scotland *, and he carried them with him 
to a certain island of Scotland ^, by name Inisboufinde ^, that is, 
^ the island of the white calf" ; and inasmuch as the habits of 

the Britons make a heavier meal in Lent than do the Gauls, and custom is the 
interpreter of the manner in which the lenten fast shall be observed, on the sup- 
position that it is of human ordinance. Do you not see how in France the 
Gauls eat flesh on the Saturdays between the festival of the Birth of Christ and 
the Purification? ... It is elsewhere plain that the Catalonians eat some 
flesh meats on all Saturdays except in Lent — not so the Britons and the Gauls — 
and custom suffices to excuse the Catalonians.' Major further writes of those 
' non comedentibus cames in quarta feria in Scotia Britanna, quia passim illic 
abstinent ab esu camium '. Cf. also Life of George Buchattan^ p. 367, by Mr. 
Hume Brown, who quotes from Buchanan's Life written by himself: ' Crimini 
dabatur \i,t, to Buchanan] camium esus in Quadragesima, a qua nemo in tota 
Hispania est qui abstineat.* In xYit Book of Aferlin (E.E.T. Soc, p. 11) the 
penance enjoined upon Merlin's mother by her confessor is ' that alle the Sater- 
dayes while thou lyvest, that thow ete mete but ones on the day '. As to the 
custom in England at a later date, we find that a Jesuit father, Jasper Hey wood, 
who came into England in 1581, taking the place of Parsons, * to the trouble of 
crar church and to the sorrow of cardinal Allen and of all good men presumed 
to abrc^ate the ancient national fasts of Friday and certain vigils of the 
B. Virgin, which had been religiously observed from the very cradle of the Eng- 
lish Church.' — ^John Mush in his Declaratio Motuum^ etc,^ as quoted in A HiS' 
torical Sketch of the Conflicts between Jesuits and Seculars in the Reign of 
Queen Elisabeth^ by T. G. Law, Lond. 1889 ; Introd. p. xxii. 

^ ' corona '. ' Corona was the exclusive name of the Roman tonsure, whereas 
in the semi-circular form, such as practised by the northern Irish, there was no 
corona.' — Lanigan's £rr/. Hist.^ vol. iii. p. 78. 

' i,e, Ireland. It is to be noted that Bede, whose narrative Major follows, 
calls Ireland by its old name of ' Scotia ' ; Major makes the mistake of suppos- 
it to be our Scotland. To quote the first sentence of Mr. Skene's Celtic Scot- 
land: 'The name of Scotia or Scotland, whether in its Latin or its Saxon 
form, was not applied to any part of the territory forming the modem kingdom 
of Scotland till towards the end of the tenth century. . . . Ireland was empha- 
tically Scotia, the * patria', or mother-country, of the Scots.' 

• Cf. Reeves's Chronicon Hyense and Lanigan's Eccl, Hist, of Ireland^ vol. 
iii. p. 79— the island, off the coast of Mayo, now known as Innisboffin. 


98 JOHN MAJOR^S HISTORY [book ii. 

the Scots ^ and the Engh'sh differed in many points, he went 
over to Ireland, and obtained for the English religious a certain 
place. And they, when they had received from him instruction 
in our holy religion, raised that place, which was once of no 
account, to a singular pre-eminence, and in the time of Bede 
reception was granted there to Englishmen only*. Such, 
according to Bede, was the estimation of the religious at that 
time, that no man would pass a man of religion on the road 
without he received his blessing in spoken word, or at least by 
a motion of the hand. 

CHAP. XII. — Concerning the death of Malduin, the reigns of 
Eugenius the Fourth and Eugetdus the Fifihy Saint CtUhherty the Vener- 
able Bede, and the Monastery of Melrose, 

AfiouT this time died Malduin, king of the Scots, and 

Eugenius the Fourth, his grandson, succeeded him. In his 

Cuihbert days Saint Cuthbert, son of the king of Ireland, who, first 

under Saint Columba and afterward in Melrose, had been a 

monk, and who had been a disciple of Saint Boisil the abbot, 

was ordained bishop in England after Saint Colman. Into the 

monasteries of Saint Cuthberfs foundation no woman dares to 

set foot ; and for this Bede assigns the following reason : that 

five monks, namely, of the monastery of Coldinghame *, though 

living apart from the nuns of the same foundation, yet fell into 

fleshly sin with these; for which cause the whole monastery 

was destroyed by fire. To this day the same rule is observed 

"^c monastery j^ the monastery of Melrose, which, since the time of Bede, 

has increased in a marvellous manner. The situation indeed of 

that monastery on the river Tweed is most fit for the exercise 

of a devout life, for it stands in a wood remote from any habi- 

A wonderful tation of men. Its rule is that of Saint Bernard. A wonderful 

sound. sound is heard, so they say, in the church or in the cloister, 

which portends the death of any of the religious * ; whereupon 


^ i.e. the Irish Scots. 

2 Bede, H.E. iv. 4, and Lanigan, vol. Hi. pp. 166, 168, 169. The founda- 
tion for English monks was at Mayo, that for Irish monks at Innisboffin. 

3 Bede : H. E, iv. 25. 

* Peter Swave, a Dane, who visited Scotland in 1535, refers to this tradition 
regarding Melrose. Cf. Mr. Hume Brown's Early Travels in Scotland^ p. 57. 


they all, hearing the sound, prepare for confession. I tell this 
as the common opinion of the people, not as a matter of faith. 

After this, Eugenius the Fifth reigns in Scotland, and, fol- Eugcnius tlu 
lowing him, Amberkeleth, who met his death by an arrow, AmberkdcUi 
as he was fighting against the Picts. 

About this time Bede flourished. <He was born in the ^cde. 
northern parts of England. Though some have it that 
his body rests at Genoa, I have read in the English 
chronicles>^ that he never passed beyond this island, and 
was buried at Durham, near the place of his birth. Whether 
from some malady, or from old age, he lost his eye-sight 
ere he died, yet even so was in use to preach to all who 
came to hear him, and in the end to bestow his blessing upon 
the assembled multitude. Now he had a wicked serving-man, 
in whom this much preaching had wrought weariness, and once 
upon a time he led the man of God to a place full of stones 
that he might preach there, telling him that a goodly congre- 
gation was before him. And when at the end, as his custom 
was, he was bestowing his blessing, there was heard a voice 
saying, *Amen, Venerable Bede\ With divine and human 
learning he was excellently furnished, and withal was a man of 
zeal, which I approve yet more. And therefore he is reckoned 
in the list of the Saints. In the year of our Lord seven hun- 
dred and thirty-four, and of his life the seventy-second, he fell 
asleep in the Lord. In the end of his book concerning the 
church of the English nation he writes thus : that in the seven 
hundred and thirty-first year of the Incarnation, the Rets and 
Scots, content with their boundaries, do not invade the English^, 
which year was the two hundred and eighty-fifth from the 
arrival of the English in Britain. 

^ Orig. and F. : ' de parte Boreali Angliae natus, licet corpus ejus aliqui apud 
Genuam [*F. Genoam'] referant. Apud Anglorum annales legi, etc' The 
pimctaation of this seems to be faulty, and I have in the translation divided 
the sentences differently. Bede died at Jarrow a.d. 735. The legend of his 
burial at Genoa probably had its origin in a confusion with him of a monk of 
the same name who died at Genoa about a«d. 883. 

^ H, E, V. 23 : ' Scotti qui Britanniam incolunt, suis contenti finibus, nil contra 
gentem Anglorum insidiarum moliuntur aut fraudium.' 

100 JOHN MAJOR'S HISTORY [book ii. 

CHAP. XIII. — Concerning the reign of Achaius, and the eminent 
valour and piety of his brother William; likewise of the perpetual peace 
between the French and the Scots, and of the founders of the University 
of Paris, 

aius, About this time Achaius is king over the Scots. His brother 

iiam the William bore arms in all wars under Charles the Great, and 
was that one of his twelve famous soldiers who was commonly 
known among our own people as Scotisgilmor^. This hero, 
intent always on warlike things, was never married. He 
founded in Germany fifteen monasteries of the order of Saint 
Benedict, and at his own cost endowed the same, enjoining that 
over them Scots should at all times 'be placed ^ Of these 
monasteries two are at Cologne, and the rest in other parts of 

^ Lists of the ' douze pairs * (sometimes sixteen in number) or ' duke-peers * 
are given in Tke English Charlemagne Romances , E. E. T. Soc, vol. ii. p. 193, 
but I have not identified this Uall Scots knight.' 

^ Like * Sanctus Gillenus Scotus' and 'noster sanctus Columbanus' and 
' Fiacrius ', see ante^ pp. 87, 88, the * ^cots * for whose behoof these fifteen monas- 
teries in Germany were founded were Irish-Scots ; but the Scots of modem 
geography, just as they 'ousted their Irish progenitors from the name itself, 
' by virtue of the equivocation ' ousted them also ' from pecuniary foundations 
abroad which were restricted to Scotsmen *. The late Rev. A. W. Haddan, in 
an article on ' Scots on the Continent in the Early Middle Ages ' contributed to 
No. cxvi. of ^he Christian Remembrancer^ says that * the great movement 
organised by S. Columbanus numbers scarcely one Briton among the armies of 
its Irish promoters ', while ' the case was widely different with the Scots ', ue, 
the Irish. In their ranks we have Saint Gall, the apostle of north-eastern 
Switzerland, and Virgilius, the apostle of Carinthia. ' Colman, the " patron of 
Austria", canonised at Melch on the Danube in 1025 ; John the Scot, bishop of 
Mecklenburgh, martyred by heathen Sclavonians in 1055 ; a cluster of Scottish 
monasteries dependent on S. James of Ratisbon, the foundation of Conor-o- 
Bryan, king of Munster, and pushing eastward as far as Vienna, during the 
twelfth century, carry us onward to the ever-receding frontiers of heathendom, 
at the later as at the earlier period.* The Bollandist biographer of Saint Kilian 
has an interesting passage on the nationality of the ' Scottish ' missionaries : 
' Scotia, quae et Hibernia dicitur, insula est maris Oceani, foecunda quidem 
glebis, sed sanctissimis clarior viris ; ex quibus Columbano gaudet Italia, Gallo 
ditatur Alemannia, Kiliano Teutonica nobilitatur Francia. . . . Dixi, et iterum 
repeto, me inter Scotos et Hibernos arbitrum sedere prorsus non velle ; lites 
ipsas suas dirimant; Tros Rutilusve fuat S. Kilianus, nullo discrimine habebo.* 

For a more particular account of the Irish monasteries in Germany see Dr. 
Wattenbach's Die KongregcUion der Schotten-Klbster in Deutschland^ translated 

CHAP, xni.] OF GREATER BRITAIN ;'•.-, 101 

It was about this time that there was made * between The peace 
the French and the Scots that league of peace which thence- French and 
forward has endured unchanged and inviolate^; and hideed *^^®°^ 
you shall scarce find among any two kingdoms in Europe a 
peace more solid and sincere. To this king of the Scots Charles - 
the Great made petition that he would send to him learned ije^rned men 
men. And for answer there are sent to France John the Scot \ lana-Kj Paris. 

by Dr. Reeves in the Ulster Journal of Archaology^ July and August 1859. We 
find there a record of the foundation of an Irish monastery in 1076 at Regensboig 
[Ratisbon], shortly after at Kiev, in 11 40 at Nurnberg, in 1 142 at Constance, 
in 1 1 83 at Eichstadt (whose church was 'transferred to abbot Gregory and the 
Scotic nation *), a little later at Kellheim, at Oels in Silesia ; while twelve 
monasteries seem to have been specially recognised as standing in some connec- 
tion with St. James's at Ratisbon. Schmeller {Bairisches Worterbuch^ voL iiL 
Pb 416) is quoted as speaking of fifteen houses — ' by a mere oversight ' says Dr. 
Reeves ; but the coincidence with Major's text should be noted. Of the twelve, 
or fifteen, we have so far become acquainted with the following nine : St. James's, 
Weyh St. Peter, Wurzburg, Niirnberg, Constance, Vienna, Memmingen, Eich- 
stadt, Erfurt. ' At the end of the fifteenth century ', to quote Dr. Wattenbach, 
' no Scotic monk had arrived within the memory of man, and their very name 
was so completely forgotten that the Dukes of Miinsterberg, in the document in 
which they propose to incorporate the Abbey of Oels with some other foundation, 
speak of it as having formerly belonged to the Weftdish brethren. The Wends 
had disappeared from the inhabitants of the. country, so likewise the Scots from 
among the monks — all that remained was the memory that they belonged to a 
foreign race.' At Niirnberg, in the fifteenth century, wine came to be sold in the 
monastery as in a tavern, and that a missing wife ought to be looked for in the 
Scots monastery became a proverb. 'At St. James's the Scotch of Scotland 
turned the tide of afiairs to their own profit, and went so far as to say that 
the Irish had thrust themselves in, and for that very reason had brought about 
the decline of the colonies. Pope Leox., on July 31, 15 15, did actually make 
over the monastery of St. James to the Scotch, and appointed, as superior, one 
John Thomson, who drove out the Irish, and introduced Scottish monks firoip 

^ This legendary alliance of Achaius and Charles the Great, as has been 
pointed out to me by Mr. Hume Brown, is as strongly insisted on by French as 
by Scottish historians. The league is specially mentioned in the marriage-con- 
tract of Queen Mary and the Dauphin. Buchanan {Rer, Scotic, Hist,, p. 89, 
ed. Ruddiman) gives the following reason for the alliance : ' Ab Achaio primum 
inter Scotos et Francos inita est amicitia maxima de causa, quod non modo 
Saxones Germaniae cultores, sed qui in Britannia ceperant sedes, Gallias piratids 
incursionibus infestabant ' 

' John Scotus Erigena, an Irish Scot, as his name implies, was bom in 
the early part of the ninth century. He died in 883 or 884. All the Scottish 
historians relate that to their countryman belongs the honour of being the first 
teacher of the University of Paris. Modem research has shown that that 

102 .•..'•'.* JOHN MAJOR'S HISTORY [book n. 

• • •• 

•- • 

Clem^ntr' Alcuin ^ ; and these men when they landed on the 
Frejicn'coasts declared that their merchandise was the know- 
led^*that they professed. At first sight it must seem passing 
'•«trange that in a small comer of the world men should be 
.'../ound better furnished with learning than in all other parts 
.•.//bf the same; yet, if we will rightly weigh the matter, the 
•••/• wonder is no way so great. Very many, as Bede relates, 
•/•* who never left the boundaries of Britain, spoke Greek and 
Latin K A great company of the religious, as is fitting indeed 
for the truly religious, had found refuge in solitude from the 
storms of this present world, and given themselves to study and 
to prayer; and though their strength might not lie in the 
unravelling of scholastic and Sorbonic puzzles, yet in the expo- 
sition of the Sacred Scriptures their learning was with the best. 
It was this knowledge of Scripture that they professed, and 
commentaries upon Scripture by no means to be slighted were 
written by Bede and Alcuin ; and Aidan and Colman could have 
done the same, but that they had the oversight of a great 
bishopric, and so gave themselves up to that life of action to 
which they were called. 

CHAP. XIV,— Of the death of Congall, the reign of Dungal, the 
contention between the Picts and Scots; likewise of the war against 
Alphin, whom in the aid they slew, and of the deeds of others. 

In the eight hundred and second year from the redemption 
of the world Congall, king of the Scots, passed from life to 

university did not come into existence till, at earliest, the close of the eleventh 
century, and that Abelard is the teacher to whom most of the credit must belong 
in forming the nucleus of the university. See Thurot, Th^se sur Vuniversiti de 

^ Clement was also an Irish Scot. The chief authority for his life is the 
anonymous monk of St. Gall, who tells the story of the two Scots of Ireland, 
named Clement and Albinus (not ' Alcuinus '), who on the coasts of France 
called out to the crowds flocking to purchase, ' If any man desireth wisdom, let 
him come to us, for we have it to sell \ On this further question of disputed 
nationality, and whether Albinus is another name for Alcuin or not, see 
Buchanan's Rer, Scotic. lib. v. Rex 65, and Dr. Lanigan's comment, Eccl, Hist, 
vol. iii. pp. 208-211. 
* Bede : H, E, v. 20, 22. 


death, and was succeeded by Dungal, in the days of theDungal. 

emperor Lewis. Of seven years only was his reign ; and in 

the course of the same, after a fifty years'* peace with the Picts, 

new seeds of war sprang up, and on this wise : When the 

Picts first gained footing in Britain, wives were given them 

of the Irish Scots, from whom the British Scots have their 

descent, upon this understanding — that in case of doubt the 

kingdom should fall to the woman and not to the man. 

Founding their contention upon this agreement, the Scots 

said the time was now come when the kingly power of the The contentic 

Picts fell by right to them, that is, to the Scots. But as to t°hJ&:^^''^ 

this right the Picts began to shuffle ; and whether the result 

came from consideration of the law of the case, or from the 

urgent actual fact, the seeds were sown of a war that was full 

of danger in the future. After Dungal, Alphin bears ruleAiphin. 

among the Scots, and the war against the Picts that was begun 

by his predecessor he waged with such persistence that he 

never, as it were, in the course of it stopped to draw breath. 

In the third year of his reign, and on Easter Day, a great 

battle was fought between him and the Picts. Very many 

famous men among the Scots there met their death, yet victory 

remained with the Scots. Thereafter, in the twelfth year of 

his reign, on the kalends of August, Alphin attacks the Picts 

in a fierce-fought battle, where most of the Scots perished, and 

Alphin himself was taken by the Picts, and without ruth The beheadin 

beheaded. Alphin then being slain, the sovereignty of the°^^P^*°* 

Scots fell to his son Kenneth. 

This Kenneth had gained no small skill in matters of war Kenneth. 
along with his father, and possessed not only a fearless courage 
and strength of body, but also that discretion without which 
bravery in the field of battle profits not. He called into 
council the chief men of his kingdom, and because he knew his 
own people to be slow to rouse against the Picts, by reason of 
the various disasters they had suffered at the hands of that 
people, he aimed to move them by a set speech, for he was 
mighty in words. And thus he is said to have begun : * Were Kenneth's 
it not that I know you, ye Scots, to be at all times inclined to ^P®*^ 
war, my speech with you this day might be more studied and 
filled with matter. It escapes you not, my chiefs, that the 

104 JOHN MAJOR'S HISTORY [book ir. 

reason is fivefold for the justice of our cause: first, on account of 
the theft and the detention of that Molossian hound ; secondly, 
that by pact and treaty of our ancestors the kingdom of the 
Picts is rightfully ours; thirdly, in that the enemy in our 
despite have leagued them with the Saxons ; fourthly, that in 
old times they drove our fathers from this island ; — nor is it 
easy to believe that two neighbour kingdoms can live in mutual 
amity on one and the same part of a country with naked earth 
for boundary betwixt them; wherefore it behoves us either 
to drive them out of the island or some day ourselves to sufier 
exile ; — and fifthly, in that they cruelly slew my dearest father, 
a man worthy to rule, a man the most deserving of your 
remembrance, and in the slaying of him violated all laws 
human and divine, seeing that they beheaded him when cap- 
tive in their hands. Of his death the infamy (unless it be 
yours to avenge it with the sword) will redound throughout 
the ages upon you, who are his piembers like as he was your 
head. If ye are men worthy of your ancestors, worthy of 
your sires, this horrible wickedness of theirs shall not go 
unavenged. And there is no reason why you should dread a 
conflict with the Picts. Granted that they were victors in the 
last battle, their victory was no bloodless one, they gained it 
with great slaughter to themselves. That kingdom of the 
Picts which is in our hands (provided you quit you like men) 
I will divide among you after your deserts, reserving for 
myself the right only of superior and the glory of the 
strife. Brave men'*s part is this : to live with honour or to 
die nobly. But yours will be no noble life if you shall leave 
unpunished the murder of him who was my dear father and 
your king." 

And so with few words he made an end, exhorting them by 
the spirits of their fathers, by the love and reverence they 
bore to himself, by the gods above, that they should go forth 
with him to battle against their mortal enemy the Picts. Yet 
with all his urgent suasion he implanted no desire of battle in 
these inexorable chiefs. Forasmuch as they had before now 
made trial of the strength of the Picts, and had been more 
often worsted in fight than they had gained the day, they 
chose for a time to hold their breath rather than rashly venture 


on a struggle whose event they had reason to fear ; for they 
were unwilling to risk the loss of children, wives, life, and 
countiy. But the king was wroth, and, with a mind exasperate Kenneth's 
against the Picts, he cunningly contrived a trap wherein to s**^*^^^- 
catch his chiefs, and so bend their minds to war. He bade 
them all, namely, to a supper, after which they should spend 
the night with him. And when the jreat men of the kingdom 
were asleep upon their beds, he calls to him a certain kinsman 
and familiar friend, and clothes him in a suit of fishes'* scales — 
lustrous these are by night — and gives him further a reed, 
through which he was to speak, and to command the chiefs in 
the name of God that they should obey their king in the 
matter of this war with the Picts, promising them too the 
victory, though not a bloodless one, and for a reward the 
country of the Picts. At early dawn then, on the following 
day, the chiefs are found talking of the angel who had 
appeared during the night. The story reached the ears of the 
king ; he feigned himself from the first incredulous, the better 
to divert them from his stratagem, and at length, but some 
time thereafter, when he saw them to be of one mind intent 
on war, brought together a great army of the Scots, and laid 
waste far and wide the Pictish territory, sparing nothing to 
fire or sword, and firmly bent either to bring destruction on 
the kingdom of the Scots, or once for all to drive the Pictish 
people from the face of the earth. 

When Drusco, the king of the Picts, understood thus much, Dnisco, king 
filled with rage against the Scots, he got together a large army ° ^ * ^* 
of the Picts, and as he was drawing near the line of the Scots, 
and took up a fair position, the better to encourage his men 
to struggle to the utmost, he is said to have exhorted them 
as follows : — 

'It is no secret to you, my strong-hearted Picts, how that fellow, dtusco's 
Kenneth the Scot, has the firm determination utterly to over- speech. 
turn our country and our kingdom, a thing that I have learned 
from some whom he holds to be among his faithful followers. 
It is a commonplace with prudent and sagacious kings that 
they must search out the secret intentions of the enemy. Now 
Kenneth\s chief men follow him unwillingly, and in the hour 
of need they will desert him. He indeed is inflamed with rage 

106 JOHN MAJOR'S HISTORY [book ii. 

and has a stormy soul because of the slaying of his father ; but, 
as ye well know, ^^ Anger clogs the mind of a man, so that be 
shall not be able to see things as they are '\ Therefore, all 
in disorder, and with no proper equipment, he invades our 
land, and knows not the difficult places of it. We, on the 
other hand, have all our wits about ns, we know every inch of 
our territory, we are going to fight for our country, nor will 
Kenneth be any way hard to conquer, if only you quit you 
like men. Our ancestors, no way better men than ourselves, 
once drove his ancestors from the island ; we once took cap- 
tive his father, a man of fiercer temper than himself, and as 
a captive slew him. We have the English on our side; 
they hate this race with its constant plotting of wars. High- 
couraged Picts, it rests with your right hands, this very day, 
to deal destruction irretrievable on the Scots; and he who 
shall take alive this foolhardy youth, that he may suffer a 
penalty harder than his father'^s, shall receive a rich reward ; 
and we will lesson this fickle race, ever prone to war and not 
to peace, that henceforward its best part will be to make for 
peace and not for war.** 

A fierce battle. This said, and the signal given on both sides, they incon- 
tinent engage in battle, and here the eager trumpet, there the 
clarion, urges the warrior to the horrid onset ; the contest 
was fierce, its issue long time doubtful. Now the Scots are 
victors, anon they seem to yield before the enemy'*s attack ; in 
the end, when the dust of battle cleared away, the victory was to 

Drusco is taken, the Scots. Drusco, the Pictish king, is taken, and with a goodly 
escort Kenneth sends him to the Scots ; nor does he even then 
grow slack, mindful of that proverb, * Many understand to con- 
quer who know not to use the victory \ He lays waste the 
villages of the Picts, he spares nor age nor sex nor religion, 
but smites all alike. Now, when the Pictish chiefs saw the 
unbridled rage of Kenneth, as one man they made stand 
against him, and he who should have been successor to Drusco 

Asec»nd speech spoke in few words thus to his men : ' Ye see, high-couraged 

ofthePict. Picts, the inhumanity, yea the brutal cruelty of those Scots, 

how their aim is our destruction, even the extinction of the 
race of Picts and all memory of it among men. Now, many 
things may well serve to quicken us in this call to war ; but. 


above all, the remembrance that we are sprung from the 

Sc3rthians. For at all times the Scythians have been an 

unconquerable race; let us fight then for our country, for 

hearth and home, for our churches, freedom, for life and 

honour, and with God to guard us and your own valour, my 

hope is this, brave men, that we shall be avenged on the insults 

of those Scots."* This said, he gave the signal to rush upon A second battle, 

the foe, and again the battle raged fierce and hot. In that 

conflict many Scots were slain, but of the Picts a far greater 

number, while the remnant was put to rout. Yet a third time 

the remaining phalanx of the Picts makes a desperate assault a third battle. 

upon the Scots, and its leader with these words encouraged 

his men : * Not to hope for safety is the only safety of the 

conquered ^ Should we now turn our backs the Scots will 

take advantage of our fear, will follow us up and put us to the 

sword. Let us then show a bold front, and thus, my men, let 

us conquer — or die the death of the brave.** This said, again 

they attack the Scots, but are overcome by Kenneth, of all 

men the bravest. Nor did Kenneth return to Scotland till he 

had either put to fire or sword all the Picts, or driven them as A sevenfold 

exiles from their country. I find it somewhere written that he ^ ^^^^^^ y« 

was attacked by the Picts, now rendered desperate, seven times 

in one day, and that as often he routed them, standing to his 

ground by day and night. Afterward, returning to Scone, he 

beheads Drusco, the Pictish king ; and thus was the kingdom Drusco 

of the Picts, which had endured for more than eight hundred *^c*dcd. 

years in Britain, brought to naught by Kenneth and added to tion of the Picts. 

his own. Utterly do I abhor the inhumanity shown by this 

man towards the servants of God, and women, and children ; 

for such wild rage as this against persons unfit for war is not 

found even among civilised heathens. And so Kenneth first 

began to rule in northern Britain one hundred and four ^ years 

after the death of Bede. 

Kenneth reigned, after the expulsion of the Picts, sixteen 
years, and [died ?] about the year of our Lord eight hundred 

* * Una salus victis nullam sperare salutem * : Aen, ii. 354. Compare Corneille 
in Horace ^ Act ii. sc. 7 : * Ce n'est qu'au d^sespoir qu'il nous faut recourir. ' 
^ Orig. and F. * 50* ; F. in Errata, * 104 '. 




The date of 
the arrival of 


The capital 
of the Picts 
in Scotland. 

The apparition 
of the Cross of 
Saint Andrew. 

and thirty-nine, in the time of the emperor Lewis. About 

him we have tliese verses of the Scots : 

Tis said that Kenneth first bore sway among the men of Alban, 

Alphin's son he was, and many wars he waged. 

Twice eight years he reigned from the expulsion of the Picts. 

In the conduct of war Kenneth cast into the shade all who 
had gone before him. After his day we find scarce any mention 
of the kingdom of the Picts, and, whether justly or unjustly 
the Scots took their lands, justly in the end they held them. 
For what is no man'^s property admittedly belongs to the 
occupier. Among our annals I find a catalogue of Pictish 
kings, but it would serve no end to insert it here ; therefore I 
let it be. Somewhat about these I may, however, be allowed 
to put down, to the end that there be a right understanding of 
the boundaries of the Scots. Bede writes thus:^ Saint 
Columba came to Britain in the reign of that most mighty 
king of the Picts named Brude. To Brude succeeded Gamard, 
son of Dompnach, who built the collegiate church of Abemethy 
after that the Blessed Patrick had brought thither Saint 
Bridget. This king bestowed upon the Blessed Virgin, and 
the Blessed Bridget, along with nine virgins who had attended 
her, those endowments which are now held by the provost and 
canons. At that time Abemethy was the bishop'^s see and also 
the capital of the Pictish kingdom. Some place the building 
of this collegiate church twenty-six years and nine months 
before the foundation of the church of Dunkeld ; others allow 
to it a priority of two hundred and forty-four years. That I 
may not offer as certain what is uncertain, I will express 
myself in this matter doubtfully. The Picts held the more 
fertile part of the island, the plains, and the sea-coast places ; 
the Scots, on the other hand, possessed the mountainous and 
more barren regions. The Picts held Saint Andrew in great 
honour, and most of all when Hungus * the Pict put to flight 
Athelstan of England near to Athelstanford. There it was 
that the cross of St. Andrew appeared to Hungus, when in 
time of need he had been made king of the Picts. The place 
is one league distant from Haddington. 

* H.E. ii. 4. 

^ ? * Hinguar*, to which * Hungus' of the next chapter is corrected in Errata of F. 


CHAP. I. — OfiJie inconiinence qfOsbeti, king of Northumberland y 
and his death ; of the slaying of Ella and the other cruelties practised 
by the Danes ; likewise of many kings of England, 

Not long time before the expulsion of the Kcts, the king of 
Northumberland was one Osbricht, a man of unbridled lust ; Osbert. 
he had unlawful dealings with the wife of one of his nobles, 
named Gueme, against her will. Loathing the foulness of this 
thing, she declared the whole matter to her husband ; and he 
betook him to the Danes, of whose blood he too came, that 
with their aid he might not let this wickedness go unavenged. 
To him the king of the Danes sends two brothers, Hinguar 
and Hubba, with a great army, into Northumberland, and P^^***^^ 
they slew Osbricht, the king of the Northumbrians. There- 
after they take York, a city strongly fortified, by assault. 
Against them king Ella led an army, and laid siege to the 
town. When the Danes were become aware of this, they left 
the town, and, on a certain piece of level ground near the city, 
they joined battle with Ella, and slew him. Whence the place Death of Ella 
had its name, for in English it is called Ellis-Croft \ 

On the death of Ella they occupy all Northumberland, and 
afterwards Nottingham, and then made for Nichol and Lindesen 
and Holland ^ ; and so with fire and sword they open a way to 
Tethford \ There they found Edmund, king of Norfolk and 
Suffolk, a man worthy of a heavenly crown, and when Hubba 
and Hinguar vainly tried to turn him from the faith, they slew Saint Edmunc 

1 The author of the Chronicle {circa 1350) known as Brompton's (Twysden's 
Scriptores Decern^ 1652, col. 803) has the words : ' Locus ubi bellum fuit vocatur 
modo Ellescroft.' Drake {Eboracum, 1736, p. 78) quotes Brompton, and adds 
' There is no place in or near the city that I can fix this name upon '. Thomas 
Gent {Hist, of York^ 1730, p. 199), quoting Brompton, calls the place Ell-Croft. 

^ * Nichol*, called by Major, Bk. III. ch. xiii. * Nicol sive Nicolai*, is, accord- 
ing to Camden, the 'Norman' name of Lincoln. Lindesen is Lindsey (the 
'Lindissi' of Bede, H,E, ii. 16), the south-eastern division of Lincolnshire, the 
others being Holland, the south-western division, and Kesteven. 

' ue, Thetford. 

110 JOHN MAJOR'S HISTORY [book in. 

him. This Saint Edmund we have as a patron of our nation 
of Ahnain, because, not so long since, the same was in use to 
be called the English nation. This is clear from the legend 
upon a seal at the time when I myself belonged to that nation ; 
but the two nations were afterward made one, and were called 
the nation of the Germans ; and not unreasonably, for, com- 
>n at Paris, pared with the Germans, very few of the English at Paris 
graduate in arts^. He is buried in Suffolk at St. Edmundsbury ; 
that is, the town is called the tomb of Saint Edmund^. It is 
said to possess the largest bell in all England. There is in 
England a great plenty of bells of the finest quality ; because 
in the material for making bells England abounds. And just 
as in music its people are said to surpass the rest of men \ so 
too do they make with their bells the sweetest and skilfuUest 
melody. You shall find no village of forty houses without its 
peal of five sweet-sounding bells, and in what town you please, 
of whatever size, every three hours the sweetest chime will 
break upon your ears. When I was a student at Cambridge, 
I would lie awake most part of the night, at the season of 
the great festivals, that I might hear this melody of the bells. 
The university is situated on a river, and the sound is the 
sweeter that it comes to you over the water. No bells in 
England are reckoned better than those of the convent at 
Oseney *. When a special sweetness of tone is desired, silver is 
plentifully mixed with the ordinary material of which they are 

^ The punctuation of this passage is wrong in F. (*quia pauci admodum 
Anglorum, Parisii respectu, Germanorum etc. '). As early as 1245, in a Bull of 
Innocent the Fourth, the four Nations of France, Normandy, Picardy, and 
England are distinctly recognised. The English Nation was composed of three 
tribes — Germany, Scandinavia, and the British islands, and had for its patron 
saints Charles the Great and Saint Edmund. During the Hundred Years* War, 
the name * English Nation' became an offence to French ears, and in 1378 
the emperor Charles the Fourth, then on a visit to Paris, expressed his wish that 
the name should be changed. It was not, however, till 1436 that the designation 
* German Nation ' displaced the other in the university registers. — ^Jourdain : 
Excursions Historiquts et Philosophiques h travers U Moycn Age^ p. 366. Cf. 
Mr. Hume Brown's George Buchanan, pp. 76, Tj. 

^ Grig. * in sanct Edmunds Eurri * [F. * in Sanct Edmundusburri] sepelitur ; 
hoc est, villa sepulcrum sancti Edmundi appellatur.' 

* Cf. ante, Bk. I. ch. v. p. 27. 

* The origin of Christ Church College. 


made. The people of Valenciennes and of Flanders are said to 
follow the same method in the system of sweet chimes as the 

But a little while thereafter many of the Danes, and among 
them Hinguar and Hubba, were slain by Alured, king of 
Suffolk. While these things were happening, the Danes who 
had accompanied Gormund the African into Gaul return to 
England, and, joining themselves to those of their nation in The Danes 
Northumberland, the Danish force was much increased. They ^**^ strongc 
carry on the war against Edward, son to Alured. This Edward 
was succeeded by his son Adelston, who destroyed most of the 
Danes, and many too he drove out of the island. I do not 
think I am wrong in holding that it was this same Adelston Adelston. 
that Hinguar, king of the Rets, of whom I spoke in the pre- 
ceding chapter, slew at Elstonenfurd in Lothian. The place 
ought to be called Adelstanfurd \ after the king of England 
who there lost his life. 

Thereafter — for here I pass by in silence some obscure 
kings of England — reigned Saint Edward, son of Edgar. Edward. 
He was treacherously murdered by his stepmother, the 
queen of England, in order that her son Eldred might so Eidred. 
come to the throne, and in the year of Christ nine hundred 
and eighty, which was the twelfth year of his reign, he ' 
was buried in Glastonbury with many of his predecessors. 
After Eldred, king of England, Sweyn of Denmark bore rule Sweyn, 
in England. This same Swe3m — his name signifies in English 
'sow** and 'hog'* — had a peaceful reign of fifteen years in 
England, and was buried at York. After Sweyn, Knoth, or Canute. 
Canute, the Dane, reigns in England. Along with him Edmund Edmund. 
Ironside^, son to Eldred, bore rule in part of the kingdom. 
This Edmund was treacherously made away with by Edrich de 
Straton. This traitor invited the king to breakfast. He had 

* The popular pronunciation in our own day is * Elshenfuird *, not 'Athelstane- 
ford * or even * Alshenford *. It appears that this was the case also at the begin- 
ning of the sixteenth century, and even earlier, for the spelling * Elstanford ' is 
found in the Registrum de Dunfemulyn (p. 204). 

2 This is a mistake. Swinburne {i.e, Svendbjorn) is not 'son of a pig', but 
* son of Svend* , ue, Swain = a young man. 

' Orig. * Irensidus ' ; ch. iv. of this Bk. * Imsyd '. 

112 JOHN MAJOR^S HISTORY [book m. 

made a picture of a bow full bent, with an arrow, and as the 
king, that he might view this thing the better, drew nearer, an 
arrow was shot at the king by a man in hiding, and thus he 
was killed. Behold then, how in a thousand far-sought ways 
kings and princes meet their end, from envy of their wealth 
and power \ 

CHAP. n. — Of the reign of Donald the Scot, and the expuinou of 
the remnant of the Picts ; of the deeds of Constaniine Eth, orAetius^ of 
Gregory, Donald, Constaniine, and Eugenius, kings of Scotland, 

On the death of that Kenneth who had almost annihilated 

Donald. the Picts, his brother Donald began to reign ; and in his days 

the small remnant of Picts, with the aid of the English, 

brought a force against him ; but he destroyed them alL It 

was not the custom at that time in Scotland for the youthful 

sons of the kings to succeed to the throne, but rather for the 

How paternal kings^ brothers, if these were more powerful than their children, 

tuoreed to t£ ^^'^ more fit to bear rule. To Donald succeeded Con.stantine, 

^rane in Scot- or Constans. In his day the residue of the Picts, with the help 

of the Danes, invaded Scotland yet again ; and against them 

Constantinc Constantine led with him to war some Picts who had remained 

subject to the Scots. By the treachery of these men 

Constantine met with his end, in a place which is called ^ the 

Ethus. battle of the black cave ^ ^. After Constantine reigns Ethus, 

son of the great Kenneth, and he was swifter of foot than 

Asahel * or the Oilean Ajax. In agility of body he was far the 

first of all those who were contemporary with him. Against 

Gregory. Ethus rose in rebellion Gregory, son of Dongal, giving forth 

that he had a right to the kingdom, and in a pitched battle at 
Strath \ Ethus perished. About these men I find among our 
old chroniclers the following verses : 

' Wing-footed Ethus^ brother of Constans^ had reigned. 
When he fell mortally wounded by the sword of Gregory, sou of 

* Cf. the story in ch. iv. of this Book, where the countess of Angus kills 
Kenneth the Second in much the same way. 

' ue, Inverdovat. Cf. Celtic Scotland^ vol. i. pp. 327-28. 
' Orig. * Asahele * ; F. wrongly * Ahasale *. 

* Cf. Celtic Scotland^ vol. iii. p. 123. 


After the death then of Ethus, Gregory was solemnly Gregory, 
crowned at Scone in the year of our. Lord eight hundred and 
seventy-five. He granted again to the Church, and in larger 
measure, those privileges which before his day had been curtailed. 
He appeased too the frequent strifes and enmities among the 
chief men of his kingdom. He then invaded Ireland, which he V^f-^?^^ 
claimed for his own by right of succession, and in no long time 
he subdued that island, and also, partly by his clemency 
and wisdom, partly by force, the northern part of England \ 
And then he came to a peaceful end, and was buried in the 
island of lona. All that Kenneth had been able to accomplish 
against the Picts by his sagacity and force of arms Gregoiy 
was able to bring to pass by a happy chance. And though in 
war I could not equal him with Kenneth, yet in humanity I give £*^JJ^^**^ 
him the pre-eminence, because, as indeed becomes a king, he Kenneth and 
showed a noble clemency in his dealings with the poor and ^^^^' 
those who were unfit for arms. In his reign, according to 
Helinand *, flourished John the Scot ^ a man renowned for his John the Soot 
learning, of keen intelligence too, and most ready of speech, 
who by desire of Charles the Bald turned the Hiei'archia of 
Dionysius the Areopagite from Greek into Latin*. He 
afterwards went over to England, and in the monastery of 
Malmesbury the boys whom he there instructed stabbed him, 

^ This is taken, according to Mr. Skene {Celtic Scotland^ vol. i. p. 331)1 firom 
a copy of the Chronicle of St. Andrews which states that Gregory subdued 
' Hibemiam totam et fere Angliam '. It has been copied by later chroniclers, 
but Mr. Skene prefers the reading * totam Berniciam et fere Angliam * (cf. Chr<m. 
Picts and Scots, p. 288), and remarks that there is no trace of any conquest 
of Ireland, and that * Hibernia * seems to have been substituted for * Bemicia *. 

' Helinand — otherwise Elinand, Elimand — was a religious of the abbey of 

Froimont of Gteaux towards the end of the twelfth century. He wrote a 

Chronicle in forty-eight books, and a Supplement to the same ; also ' De laude 

vitae claustralis'. Before he became a monk he had been a favourite at the 

court of Philip Augustus. According to the * Roman d'Alexandre *, as quoted by 

Moreri : — 

* Quand le Rois ot mangie, s'appela Helinand, 

Pour li esbanoyer, commanda qu'il chant.* 

■ See note, p. 102. 

* Printed at Cologne in 1502, with a Commentary of Hugh of St. Victor, and 

again at the same place, with a Commentary of Dionysius the Carthusian, in 






Allied the 

the Scot. 

SO it is related \ and tortured him to death with their writing- 

styles. His tomb, at the left side of the high altar, bears this 

inscription : — 

In this tomb lies the wise and holy John 

Who^ livings was endowed with marvellous learnings. 

A like story is told of Saint Felix : that he was stabbed to 
death, by cobblers'* awls. 

After Gregory, Donald, grandson to Kenneth the Great, and 
son to king Constantine, bears rule among the Scots. He was 
one who reckoned no labour too severe, if so he might safeguard 
the lands that Gregory had won ; for ^ not less of valour does 
it take to guard than gain\ Now it is Ireland^ that he visits, 
now the English territory lately made his own, and imposes 
laws upon his subjects. The Danes made earnest entreaty with 
this Donald that he should join them in a war against the 
English ; but to this he would no way consent, for he reckoned 
it a shameful thing to be beholden to heathen men in the dis- 
turbance of faithful worshippers of Christ, even though these 
had no rightful title to their lands. And for this I commend 
the man, and consider him worthy of praise only a little after 
Gregory himself. 

In the tenth year of the reign of Donald dies Alfred, king 
of the West Saxons, and is succeeded by his son Edward. 
After Donald, Constantine, son of Ethus, begins to reign, in 
the year of our Lord nine hundred and three. This Constan- 
tine waged many wars against Edward the Englishman and his 
bastard son Edelstan. To Eugenius, the son of Donald, he 
gave the domain of Cumbria. This same Constantine there- 
after invades England with a large army ; but, suffering defeat 
in battle, he basely lost those lands of Cumbria^ which the 
Scots had held from the days of Gregory four-and-fifty years. 
So he returned to Scotland, for four years more held the 

^ This is the story told by Matthew of Westminster, but it had its origin in a 
confusion of John Scotus Erigena with John of Saxony, whom Alfred called 
about 884 from France into England. Cf. Histoire Littiraire di la France^ 
tom. V. p. 418. 

^ Clauditur hoc tumulo Sanctus Sapiensque Joannes, 
Qui didatus erat jam vivens dogmate miro. 
' Cf. the footnote in the supposed conquest of Ireland on the preceding page. 
< Cf. the statement at the beginning of chapter iv. of this Book. 


kingly sceptre, at length became a religious at St. Andrews, 
and in that condition for five years more stayed there till his 

CHAP. IIL— Of the children of Knoth, king of England. Of the 
character of Edward, the miracles that he did, and his chtistily ; likewise 
of the overthrow of Harold, king of England, hy the Norman, 

While Knoth, or Canute, reigned over the English, there 
were bom to him two sons : Harold, to wit, and Hardicanute. 
Hardicanute was of great bodily activity, and therefore de- 
lighted to travel on foot rather than on horseback. Harold Harold. 
as a king, followed rather his own arbitrary will than the 
dictates of reason. His reign accordingly was without benefit 
to his people, and it lasted for two years only. To him succeeded 
Hardicanute, his brother; and at the very beginning of his 
reign he caused to be disinterred the body of his dead brother, 
Harold, and cast it into the Thames, the river which flows past . 
London. There certain fishermen found it by night, and buried 
it in the church of Saint Clement^ This Hardicanute did, 
because king Harold had banished his mother and his uncle, 
and he then recalled them from their exile. 

After the death of Hardicanute the princes of England 
decreed that they would have none of Danish race to rule over 
them ; for they found themselves now fit to make head against 
the Danes, inasmuch as Hardicanute had left behind him no 
male issue, but a daughter only. The chief men of England 
send then for Edward who was at that time in exile among the Edwaid. 
Normans ; and he, after he had assumed the kingly crown, per- 
severed in that integrity and sincerity of life which had marked 
him as a boy. This Edward was a man of the highest natural 
endowment, and had been piously and religiously brought up 
from his earliest youth, — a condition which tends not a little 
to holiness of life and renown in after years. Whence we have 
that of Aristotle in the second book of his Ethics : ^ It matters 
not a little, but rather much — nay rather, it matters every- The education 
thing — whether boys are brought up to one sort of habits, or 

^ Hence called * St Clement Danes '. 



[book III. 

another''. And here he confirms his opinion, too, with the 
authority of his teacher Plato, using the analogy of the new- 
made earthen jar or pot, according to that sajdng of Horace : 
* A long time will a jar retain the odour of that with which it 
was filled when newly made***. Those who in youth are ill 
taught, who are allowed to grow up untrained, and are foolishly 
humoured, turn out liars and enemies of religion. Not such 
upbringing as this had that Edward, of whom we are now 
speaking ; for he learned to reverence God, and to fear Him as 
a son may fear his father. He had a special devotion for the 
Evangelist John, and besought his intercession for himself with 
God. WTien he was one day passing from Westminster to 
London, a certain pilgrim besought him, by the love of God 
and John the Evangelist, for an alms ; whereupon the king, all 
unobserved, threw towards him a golden ring, notable for the 
Miracle of the precious stone that it bore. This ring then John the Evan- 
g^S^rin^*^ gelist afterwards gave back to certain English pilgrims, instruct- 
• ing them how they were to give it to the king, and to declare 
to him the hour of his death, just as he then told the same to 
them '. At the elevation of the body of Christ, in the sacrifice 
of the altar, Edward saw once in a vision the king of the 
Danes drowned in the sea, when this king had it in his mind 
to come to England and bring disturbance upon Edward. 
Edward declared this vision of the drowning to those who stood 
near, and even so it turned out. This Edward had to wife a 
daughter of Godwin ; but he never sought to know her in way 
of marriage ; and, like Chrysanthus and Daria^, they observed 
a holy virginity all their days. 

Edward was buried in Westminster, in the year of the 
world's redemption ten hundred and sixty-five. To him suc- 
ceeded Harold, son of earl Godwin. This Harold, when he 

The vision of 
the Dane. 


1 Nic, Eth. ii. I. 2 ^pp^ j^ \i ^ 

' Camden tells this story in connection with Havering in Essex, which was 
believed to have been called * Have ring * in consequence. — Brit. p. 385, ed. 

^ Chrysanthus was the son of a Roman senator in the reign of the emperor 
Valerian. When he became a Christian his father forced him to take a wife, 
and gave him Daria, the lady philosopher. But Chrysanthus treated her as a 
sister, and they took counsel to be virgins till death. — From the Menology of 
Basil, as quoted in Smith's Diet, of Christian Biography^ s.v. CHRYSANTHUS. 


was once making sail for Flanders, and was driven by contrary 
winds, fell into the hands of William, duke of the Normans, The wrongful 
who took him bound by oath to take to wife the daughter of NomanT 
William, and to hold England for his, that is for William^s, 
advantage ; and on that condition Harold was allowed freely 
to return to England. 

Chap. IV. — Of the Kings of Scotland and their deeds. 

Let us here leave for a little the affairs of England cuid 
take up in order the course of events in Scotland, whose narra- 
tive has suffered some interruption. Malcolm, son of Donald, Malcolm, 
was king over the Scots in the year of our Lord nine hundred 
and forty-three. To him Edmund, king of England, brother 
to Eldred, had given Cumbria ' ; and for that region he did 
homage and fealty to the Englishman. For he judged it 
better to do this than to live in daily war. This Malcolm 
came to his end through the treachery of the Scots of Moray. 
His successor was Indulphus, son to Constantine, who was Indulphus. 
slain by the Danes when they were ravaging the country. 
After him, in the year of our Lord nine hundred and sixty-one, 
Duffus, son of Malcolm, reigns over the Scots. He was a man Dufiiis. 
given to peace, but in his day the northern parts were infested 
by robbers, and while he was in pursuit of them to seize them, 
he was murdered in his bed ; his servants, forgetful of their 
duty, had deserted him. To Duffus succeeded Culinus, son of Cuiinos. 
Indulphus. A lustful man he was, and, following the example 
of Sardanapalus, was a dishonourer of virgins. As he was ravish- 
ing once the beautiful daughter of a prince, that illustrious man, 
by name Richard, slew him ; and there were few that grieved 
much at his death. Hence let kings learn not to dishonour the 
daughters or the wives ^ (which is a greater sin) of their nobles, 
seeing that if these nobles are men of sense and spirit they 
will not be balked of their vengeance by the head of a king. To 
Culinus succeeded Kenneth the Second. He was treacherously ^SSd!^*^* 

^ Cf. ch. ii. of this Book. 

^ Cf. the coDTersation between Macduff and Malcolm Canmore, ch. v. of this 

118 JOHN MAJOR'S HIS1X3RY [book in. 

slain by a woman. This woman was countess of Angus. She 
invited the king to a breakfast, whereat she showed a statue 
which discharged arrows, and by one of these the king was 
slain, just as was done in the story related in the first chapter 
of this book \ 

Further, after Kenneth'*s death, in the year of our Lord nine 
hundred and ninety-four, Constantine the Bald, with the help 
of confederates, and in despite of a multitude of the nobles, 
placed the crown upon his own head. This was the beginning 
of a long strife amongst the Scots ; and so it came about that 
the realm of Scotland was scarcely at any time brought nearer 
to its ruin. One faction followed this Constantine ; Malcolm 
axkd the bastard brother of his father, a mighty man of war, 
had the favour of all the rest. It chanced that both leaders met 
in battle one day in Lothian, near to the river Almond, six 
miles distant from Edinburgh, and both were slain, but they say 
that the victorv remained with Kenneth. On the death of 
Constantine, Gryme, who had followed his fortunes, claims the 
sovereignty. Then began the contest with Malcolm, Kenneth^s 
son, for the kingdom. And when, to put an end to so long a 
strife, a duel, as it were, was determined on, with few soldiers 
on each side, and Malcolm came off the conqueror, he would 
not assume the crown until the nobles should all agree that he 
was to be king ; and this they did, as we read, in the year of 
our Lord one thousand and four. Malcolm reigned for thirty 
years. He had for his heir one only daughter, whom he gave 
in marriage to Cr3aiinus, abthane of Dul % — that is, seneschal 
of the king in the isles, him who was receiver of the royal 
revenues. In the thirteenth year of the reign of this Malcolm, 
Edmund Ironside, of whom we made mention a short time 
since, was king of England. In the end this Malcolm' was 
murdered near to Glamis, by certain traitors belonging to the 
party of Gryme. 

^ * Sicut superius capite primo hujus libri diximus * ; referring to the story of 
Edmund Ironside and Edrich de Straton. 

s The Irish Annals call him abbot, but though bearing this designation — 
Cronan, ' abbot of Dunkeld ' — ' he was not an ecclesiastic, but in reality a great 
secular chief, occupying a position in power and influence not inferior to that^of 
any of the native Mormaers'. — Celtu Scotland, vol. i. p. 390. 


Malcolm was a man of such wasteful prodigality that he had 
left for himself no piece of land in the kingdom, but had 
bestowed upon his princes and courtiers the whole of the royal 
domains. Herein he greatly erred, and dishonoured indeed, 
so far as in him lay, his state as king ; for though niggard- 
liness, and most of all in a king, be a vice more foul than 
prodigality, yet in one no less than in the other, as is observed 
by Aristotle in the first chapter of the fourth book of his 
Ethics^ lies a blot, and most rarely is prodigality found alone, 
and without avarice to attend it ^. For when a man bestows 
upon certain persons more than is fitting, needs must he wring 
from others that to which he has no claim ^, To such a pitch Tl»« application 
of poverty was Malcolm reduced that he was forced to lay his state treasury, 
complaint before the chief men of the kingdom. These, then, 
and the nobility, came to this agreement with the king : that 
after their own death the king should maintain their heirs at 
his own costs, and should receive the revenues of each until he 
had reached the age of twenty-one, an arrangement which 
every year brings much profit to the kings of the Scots. For 
it may happen that the king draws yearly a thousand or more 
from one out of twenty nobles, according as his son is younger 
or older, and his inheritance more or less rich ; and hitherto, 
and last of all, he has had also the marriage of the young man 
in his control, out of which he can fetch no little profit. He 
can also make provision for his own proper household by 
marrying them to heiresses ^ 

In all this king Malcolm acted most honourably. For he 
was unwilling that the common people should be weighted 

^ Orig. : ' Nam licet illiberalitas prodigalitate foedius in rege praesertim sit 
vitium, ut Aristoteles quarti Ethiconim primo ait : tamen in utroque est labes, et 
rarissime prodigalitas simplex sine avaritia iuncta invenitur.* F. : 'Nam licet 
illiberalitas, prodigalitate foedius, in rege praesertim, sit vitium, ut Aristoteles iv. 
Ethiconim primo ait, Tamen in utnyque est labes^ et rarissime prodigalitas sim- 
plex ^ sine avaritia juncta, inveniturJ 

' This sentence is also part of the quotation from Aristotle, who says in effect : 
' Most prodigals err more actively on the side of taking. They take whence they 
ought not. They must take in order to keep going, and they concern themselves 
as little where the money comes from as where it goes.* Cf. Cicero de OfficOs, 
i. 43 : ' Sunt autem multi qui eripiunt aliis quod aliis largiantur *. 

8 See further on this subject Book iv. ch. v. 



[book m. 


The Danish 


The murder 
of Duncan. 

with taxes, however empty his own purse might be; and 
therefore did he make this petition to the chief men and 
nobility of the kingdom, that they would be pleased to make 
some provision for himself, and for future kings of Scotland, 
without oppression of the common people. They showed 
wisdom in consenting to his request, for they held their lands 
by grant in perpetuity from the king ; and they discovered an 
honourable means whereby, without risk to himself, the king 
might gather in a large sum of money. This law of the realm 
is not without its uses; for, when they have once completed 
their one-and-twentieth year, the young men enter upon the 
enjojrment of their own property, and, at the same time, 
for the reckless among them every opening is closed that 
might lead to the squandering of their substance in their youth \ 
Malcolm, then, being laid to rest with his fathers in the 
island of lona, where the greatest part of his forebears had 
been buried, Duncan, his grandson by his daughter Beatrice, 
began to reign ; and his reign was of six years. It was in the 
second year of his reign that Knoth, the Danish king of the 
English, died, and was succeeded by his son Harold. The 
siame year Robert duke of Normandy went the way of all flesh, 
and in his room was chosen William, called the Bastard, a boy 
of seven years ; he had the support of Henry king of the 
French, who was guardian to the boy. I make mention of 
this William and his times, because he had no small dealings 
with the Britons, as shall afterwards be told. This Duncan * 
was secretly put to death by the faction which had been till 
then in opposition. He was mortally wounded by one Macha- 
beda* at Lochgowane, and was thence carried to Elgin, where 
he died. He was buried by the side of his fathers in lona. 
Now those kings showed a grave want of foresight, in that they 

found no way of union and friendship with the opposing 

— — — .^-- 

' Cf. Bk. IV. ch. ix. on usury — ' haec foenebris pestis '. 

^ Orig. and F. print 'Malcolmus', an evident misprint for 'Duncanus '. Orig.: 
' Hie Malcolmus a factione opposita adhuc latenter peremptus est per quendam 
nomine Machabedam; apud Lochgowanen etc.'. F. : 'Hie M., a factione 
opposita adhuc, latenter peremptus est, per quendam nomine Machabedam, apud 
etc' I have not been able to make sense of either punctuation, and suspect 
that the original is corrupt. 

' Macbeth. 


faction : for either they should have banished them from the 
land of their fathers as disturbers of the common peace and 
welfare ; or, if this opposite faction was carrying on its designs 
in secret, and was unknown to the king, he should not at least 
have taken measures against it without a large army at his 
back : for to gain a kingdom many a wicked act is done — p^paiiefOT^^ 
following that saying always in the mouth of Caesar : * If the 
law must be violated, let it be violated at least for empire ; in 
all else follow after piety." Give them but the chance — and 
those men are few indeed who will not risk their all for a 
crown — ^though their title to it may be far from clear. This 
Machabeus, or Machabeda as some speak it, when Duncan ^ Machabeda. 
had been thus betrayed to his end, assumed the sceptre of 
sovereignty, usurper fashion, to himself, and would have pur- 
sued the sons of dead Duncan ^ to their destruction. For 
Duncan ^ had two sons : to wit, Malcolm Canmore, that is, 
Malcolm of the big head, and Donald Bane. These were borne 
to him by a sister of Si ward earl of Northumberland. For two 
years her two brothers stayed in their own country, hoping 
for victory ; and when they could strive no more, Donald took 
his course to the Isles and Malcolm to Cumbria. 

CHAP. V. — Concerning Malcolm Canmore and Machabeda, kings of 
Scotland ; likewise of the death of Saint Edward, king of England, the 
JUghi of Edgar with all his children and household into Scotland*, and 
of the marriage of Saint Margaret, his daughter, and the children 
that she bore. 

This Malcolm Canmore, though he had a just right to the Malcolm 
kingdom of Scotland, remained in England during fourteen ^^^*'^*^- 
years, till at length his friends alike and his rivals called him 
back to the paternal home : his rivals, indeed, to the end they 
might destroy him ; and his friends that he might put to 
the test his chance of sovereignty. In the first year of the 

* Orig. and F. 'Malcolmus.* 

' Orig. and F. ' in Scythiam '. The belief in the Scythian origin (cf. the 
speech of Drusco, the Pictish king, in Bk. ii. ch. xiv.) shows itself even in a 

122 JOHN MAJOR'S HISTORY [book iii. 

licanute. reign of Macbeth, Harold was succeeded by his brother 
Hardicanute, the last king of the Danish line in England. 

beth. This Macbeth afflicted with divers punishments those who 

favoured Malcolm Canmor: some he despoiled; some he cast 
into loathsome dungeons; others again he not only stripped 
of all that they had, but drove them exiles from the kingdom, 
and there were not wanting some that he beheaded. Among 

lu£ the remnant was Macduff, thane of Fife, one of the chief men 

of the kingdom. Now Macbeth mistrusted this man sorely, 
and insulted him with these words — saying that he would soon 
bring him under the yoke, even as an ox in the plough. But 
Macduff feigned to take this as said in jest, as if he were in- 
nocent of what was meant, and so turned aside the rage of 
the king; and, withdrawing himself in secret from the court, 
took ship for England. Macbeth thereupon seized upon all his 
possessions for the royal treasury, and declared him at the 
horn an enemy of the commonweal, banishing him too in per- 
petuity from the kingdom. But this action displeased the 
rest of the nobles greatly, inasmuch as the king on his own 
authority only, without summons of the supreme council, had 
proscribed a man of this quality. 

Now when Macduff' was come to the presence of Malcolm 
Canmore, and was urging him to return to the land of his 
fathers, promising him that the nobles and the common people 
too would welcome his arrival, — he, desiring to put Macduiffs 
good faith to the test, declared that for three reasons he should 
prove himself an unserviceable king : first of all, that he was 
by nature voluptuous, and by consequence would deal wantonly 
with the daughters and (what is a much greater wrong) tlie wives 
of the nobility ; secondly, that he was avaricious, and would 
covet all men'^s goods. To these two objections Macduff makes 
answer : * In the kingdom of Scotland, all northern and cold 
though it be, you shall find a wife, the fairest you will, who 
shall alone suffice for your needs. There is no prince, whether 
in England or Scotland, who will not readily give you his 
daughter in marriage. And for avarice, you shall use as your 
own the whole possessions of the realm ; and there is naught 
that the people will deny you if you but ask it in the way of 
love and with no desire for strife.'' To all this Malcolm then 


made yet a third objection, saying: ^I am a liar, a man of 
deceit, unstable in all my ways."* And then to him Macduff is 
said to have made this answer : * Dregs of the race of man, 
begone ; begone, thou monster among men — fit neither to reign 
nor live."* ^ Now Malcolm, when he had thus proved the honesty 
and good faith of Macduff, declared to him the true reason 
wherefore he had made these objections, and bade him be of 
good courage, — promising him that if, as he trusted, God should 
restore the sceptre to his hands, he would make double restitu- 
tion whereof Macduff had been despoiled. Yet he was unwill- 
ing to take his departure from England, where already he had 
been an exile fifteen years, till he had come to speech of Edward, 
king of the English, and had received the king'^s gracious con- 
sent that he should depart. And Edward received him with 
all kindness — for all men were sure of the kindest reception 
from him — and granted liim support both of money and men. 

Meanwhile arise mutterings of revolt in Scotland against 
Macbeth, and on the first arrival of Malcolm and Macduff the 
princes and people welcomed them gladly, and met their king 
with tokens of joy ; which when Macbeth the usurper came to 
know, he fled to the northern parts of Scotland. Thither pught of 
Malcolm pursued him, making no delay, and after a short Macbeth, 
struggle, Macbeth, who was much inferior in his forces, was 
at Lumphanan slain. Meanwhile, however, when news of his His death, 
death was brought to the followers of Macbeth, they carry to 
Scone one Lulach 2, his cousin, nicknamed the simpleton, cmd Luiacb the 
there crown him, judging that some part of the nobles and ^^' 
the common people would be with them ; but when they found 
he had no following, they fled. When Malcolm came to know 
what had happened he sends men in search of Lulach, whom 
they find and put to death at Strathbogie, and the few who His end. 
had still clung to him hid themselves as best they could. On 
the final overthrow of this evil faction, Malcolm was brought 
to Scone, and there, in the year of our Lord one thousand and 
fifty-seven, was solemnly crowned. 

^ Shakespeare has embodied this conversation in Macbctky though it was 
through Hector Boece (Holinshed*s translation) that he had it. 
' Orig. and F. ' Lutach ' ; but see Mr. Skene's Celtic Scotland, vol. i. p. 411. 

124 JOHN MAJOR'S HISTORY [book m. 

We are told that now, when the king was once firmly seated 
on his throne and the country was in full possession of the 
The demands blessings that flow from a settled peace, Macduff sought of the 
of Macduff. yjjg three favours in consideration of the good service he had 
rendered. First of all, that his successors in the thaneship 
of Fife should place the king at his coronation on the 
throne ; secondly, that when the royal standard was unfurled 
against the enemy, it should fall to the thane of Fife to 
l&Bui the vanguard^, that is, the first line of battle; and 
thirdly, that all his descendants should have remission where 
one of them was accidentally the homicide of a noble, on 
paying a fine of four-and-twenty marks, and in the case of 
the slaying of a serf for a fine of twelve marks. Homicides 
were accustomed to claim absolution, by this privilege of 
law granted to Macduff, on payment of such a sum of 
Theargament money for Kinboc^. Now Macduff erred in making such 
against them. ^^^^^^^ ^ ^^^^ Th^ g^^ demand and the second were too 

well-fitted to secure for him the anger ' of the other nobles ; 
and the third, when we take into consideration the proneness 
of the people to homicide, was most unjust; for thus, under 
cover of an unintended injury, a long-standing feud might find 
satisfaction and a far too easy shelter. But however this may 
be, a partial if not a complete excuse may be urged in behalf 
of the king : the desert of Macduff was great, and the king 
neither dared, nor indeed desired, to refuse him in anything. 

Some time after this the king comes to hear of a certain 
knight^ , commonly called a ^ miles ** ^, who had conspired against 
A daring and him along with some men of Belial. Of set purpose then he 
ofk^g Mai- ^^^^ ^^^^ soldier as his body-servant, when he went a-hunting, 
colm. and while they were once in pursuit of the wild beasts, he con- 

trived to get this man far separated from the rest. Then, 

' Cf. Bk. V. ch. iii. de acierum instructiom, 

' * Kinboc ' : probably a misprint for ' Kinbote '. Cf. Sir John Skene, de 
Verb Signif, s.v. ' BOTE '= fine for slaughter of a kinsman. Mr. Skene gives an 
account of these privileges in Celtic Scotland^ vol. iii. pp. 304, 305. Cf. also 
Sir John Skene «.j., s.v. clan macduff. 

' Orig. and F. ' Indignationem aliorum principum duo prima facile poterant 
ei parere ' ; I have read ' parare *. 

^ eques auratus. ' quem yulgo militem vocant. 


leaping from his horse, the king commanded the soldier to fight 
him like a man in single combat, where they were seen of none, 
and to cease from treachery and underhand attempts upon his 
life. Whereupon the soldier threw himself at the feet of the 
king, and, humbly imploring pardon for himself, made a full 
discovery of his accomplices in crime. The king granted him 
pardon. So far from approving this action of the king, I 
condenm and abhor it utterly. It is plain that this soldier 
showed himself of a timorous nature in declining the single 
combat ; and had he been a bold man, of warm temper, he 
would not have declined it when it was offered to him, lest he 
should thus incur the accusation of cowardice. But the issue 
of such a contest is doubtful. The soldier had little to risk 
but his life and what small property he might possess. The fall 
of the king on the other hand would have been fraught with 
disaster to the state. Further, the king erred herein most 
of all : for, suppose the soldier had been truly guilty of the 
king^s death, yet the king himself, alike before the beginning 
of the combat and after its issue, would still have stood guilt- 
less, had it chanced that he were slain by the soldier ; but, as 
things turned out, he exposed himself, an innocent man, to the 
risk of death, and, so far as in him lay, afforded to this soldier 
the opportunity of becoming a homicide. Besides — and this 
consideration is the weightiest of all — he thus placed the 
kingdom in great jeopardy of a long-lasting strife, in the 
course of which, for the most part, much innocent as well as 
guilty blood is shed. And, to make an end, consider this too : 
that the king is a public person, and without the consent, 
express or implicit, of his people, has no right to expose him- 
self to the chances of war — ^a consent, I say, that shall be con- 
sonant with reason. 

It was at this time, in the year one thousand and sixty-six, 
according to our chroniclers, that Edward, king of England, Death of 
died. The English histories, and for this period they are more ^*^* 
trustworthy, place the date one year earlier. This was that 
Saint Edward the Confessor, of whom I have made mention 
above. And Edgar Atheling, king of the English, having at heart Edgar, 
the misfortunes of his country, took ship with his mother, his 
sister, and his whole household, desiring to return to the land 

126 JOHN MAJORS HISTORY [book hi. 

of his birth. Tossed by contrary winds, he was driven on the 
Scottish shores, at a place which, for that reason, is called by 
the inhabitants St. Margarets Bay. But king Malcolm, learn- 
ing they were English people, went down to the ships ; for he 
spoke the English tongue like his own, which at that time was 
a rare thing for a Scot. This was no wonder, for he had passed 
fourteen years and more of his boyhood as an exile in England, 
at which time he had conceived a great fondness for the foreign 
tongue. After long converse with her, and the performance 
of many kind offices, the daughter of the king of England, 
Margaret by name, by reason of her gifts at once of mind and 
her outward charm, won such favour with Malcolm that he 
took her to wife. She bore to him six sons : to wit, Edward, 
Edmund, Etheldred, Edgar, Alexander, and David ; and two 
daughters : Matilda, afterwards queen of England, and Mary, 
afterwards count, or countess, of Boulogne. In the days of this 
i^lsirianus. ^^^S liv^d Marian us Scotus^, noted as a historian and writer on 
chronology, and as a theologian of weight. He wrote a history 
of the world from the creation to his own times, one lx)ok on 
chronology, and one on the harmony of the Evangelists. He 
became a monk at Saint Martinis of Cologne, was afterwards 
translated to Fulda, and there abode for twelve years. There- 
after, by the order of the abbot of Fulda and the bishop of 
Mayence, he lived at Mayence; then for seventeen years at 
Saint MartinX and there he died, not without renown for his 
holy life, in the year of our Lord one thousand and eighty-six, 
and of his age the fifty-eighth. Further, in the time of this 
king Malcolm,William the Bastard took possession of England. 
Leaving Malcolm, then, for a little, let our narrative turn to 
this William. 

^ Marknus Scotus, an Irish Scot, was born in 1086. Dr. Lanigan {EccL 
Hist, of Irtlandy vol. iv. p. 7) says of his Chronicle, which was printed at Basel 
in 1559, that ' it exceeds anything of the kind which the middle ages have pro- 
duced, and would appear still more respectable, were it published entire '. 
There are said to be several unpublished works by him in the library of 
Ratisbon, and MS. notes on all the epistles of St. Paul in the imperial library 
at Vienna. 


CHAP. VI. — Of the deeds of the English i first of the iuvasion of 
England by William of Nonnandy the Bastard, and Jus slaying of king 
Harold, Of the independence of the Scots ; of Williams issue and his 

In the year of our Lord one thousand and sixty-six William, v^iujam the 
duke of Normandy invaded England ; and Harold king of JJ^™??^ 
England goes to oppose him, with but a small following of 
soldiers, for indeed he was unpopular with the English. I 
follow here the English chroniclers. William makes of Harold 
a threefold demand : that he shall have Harold^s daughter in 
marriage ; or that he shall hold England of Harold ; or that 
he shall try the fortune of war. Harold made choice of the 
third, and in that war he fell. Thereafter at the closely follow- 
ing feast of the birth of Christ, William was created at London 
king of the English. He went in a short while to Normandy, 
and in the second year of his reign returned with his wife Maud 
to England, and at the feast of Whitsuntide crowned her as 
queen. Next he marched against the Scots. But Malcolm the 
Scot and William made a treaty, as Caxton asserts^, on these Malcolm's 
terms : that Malcolm should hold Scotland of the king of ^^^ 
England, and William received homage of him therefor. That 
this statement is untrue is plain from all the British writers 
who used the Latin tongue. Homage was rendered indeed for 
the county of Cumberland, which is situated in England, and 
i^rhich the kings of the Scots held of England, and granted 
always to their eldest sons, who did homage for that county to 
the kings of the English. Although Malcolm had made this 
treaty with William, he all the same often .laid waste Northum- 
berland beyond the river Tees. Kings observe a treaty of peace 
only when they will. After a great slaughter at Gateshead, 
Malcolm got possession of all those parts, but not of the strong 
places, nor of the munitions of war. William, king of England, 
had a brother who was bishop of Bayeux. Him he had made 
earl of Kent, and he now sent him eigainst the Scots with a 

^ In his Chronicles, folio Ixxvi. ed. 1528 — 'that the Kyng of Scotlonde 
became his man, and helde all his londe of hym \ 

128 JOHN MAJOR^S HISTORY [book m. 

great force of Englishmen and Normans. These Malcolm put 

to the rout, and pursued them even to the river Humber. 

Thereafter duke William sent his son Robert against the Scots, 

to make war on them. But he never attacked them; nor 

indeed did he do aught but build a new castle on the Tyne, 

The Scots were the better to resist an invasion. Now it is a thing unheard of, 

paym OT^Mcne- ^^^ among the Scots simply inconceivable, that a Scot at peace 

fioarieti in jn his own kinirdom ever recognised as his temporal superior 

resDect of 

any one. either the English king or any one else. This may be gathered 

from the whole past history of the country ,^for the Scots at all 
times resisted the inroads in the island of Romans and Britons, 
and more than once invaded them — witness their historian and 
fellow-countryman Bede. Now king Malcolm after his acces- 
sion to the crown at no time had suffered from civil wars in his 
kingdom, but was held in great veneration by nobles and 
common people. And the case, which I will now propose, 
would be altogether parallel : tliat is, if the French king were to 
say that the king or kingdom of the Spains was subject to him, 
simply because the earldom of Flanders, which had its origin 
in the house of France, was so subject. I grant indeed that 
king Malcolm was subject to the English king in respect of 
Cumberland; whether this carries with it or does not carry 
with it the consequence that therefore Malcolm was uncondi- 
tionally subject to the Englishman matters not. Yet the 
kingdom of Scotland was never subject to England, nor the 
Scot to the Englishman, in respect of the kingdom of Scotland, 
just as Charles, count of Flanders, is not subject to the French- 
man in respect of the kingdom of Spain. 

William's issue. This William had by his wife Maud these children : Robert 
Curtoys*, Willitun Rufus^, Henry Beauclerk, and some fair 
daughters. And when he was nearing his end, he devised 
Normandy to Robert Curtoys, England to William, and to 
Henry gold and much furniture. After a reign in England of 
twenty years he met the common fate of all men, and was 

His death and buried at Caen in Normandy. I remember to have read in the 

^ ^ ' chronicles of the Scots that this William made a reckoning of 
the parish churches in England, and found the tale of them 

^ The ' beneficium ' bound the vassal to his superior. 

' i,e, Curthose. ' Orig. and F., *Rous*. 


seventeen beyond the five-and-forty thousand ^. In England, as The parishes 
we have said above, every village has its parish church, though ° "8 ^" • 
the village may count perhaps but twenty hearths ^. In Scot- 
land this is not so ; and in this point, as in many others, I 
reckon the ecclesiastical polity of the English to be preferable 
to the ecclesiastical polity of the Scots *. 

CHAP. VII. — Of the reig?i in England of William Riifns, how he 
was an overbearing and irreligious nian, and met with a condign end. 

On the death of his father, William Rufus or Rous took up WiiUam Rufusw 
the reins of government in England, but handled them without 
discretion, and not as befitted a king. He made light of holy 
places and religion * ; he banished from England the Blessed 
Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury, a man of most upright 
character, for no other cause than that he had rebuked the 
conduct of the king ; and Anselm then went to Rome, where 
in great part he wrote his books, which in my opinion are no 
way to be despised. Into such an insanity of wickedness did 
this king fall, that he laid waste many religious houses with 
their possessions, and on their ruin planted a fair and large 
forest, wherein he collected an immense multitude of wild 
animals of every kind. He built from its foundations the 
great hall in Westminster, in which the highest court of justice 
is held. Shortly thereafter he went a-hunting in the foresaid 
forest, and as he was walking there, a certain courtier with a 
bow shot an arrow at a small bird ; but the arrow, glancing 
from the knotty branch of a tree, struck and killed the king. 
Whence let kings in days to come learn that they may not 
scatheless defile for their own will and pleasure the holy places 

* Spelman {Glossary ed. 1687, p. 218) states the parish churches at 45,011 at 
the date of Domesday Survey, but Sir Henry Ellis {Generai Introd. to Domesday^ 
vol. i. p. 286) says that the whole number actually noticed in the survey amounted 
to a few more than 1700. It would appear that Major and Spelman must have 
had access to some common authority, and Spelman in fact refers to Sprott*s 
Chronicle [circa 1274) : — * Repertum fuit primo de summa ecclesiarum xlv. ml 
xi., summa villarum Ixiii., ml iii"., summa feodorum militumlx. ml iic. xv., de 
quibus religiosi xxviii. ml xv.* 

* Cf. Bk. I. ch. V. * Cf. Bk. i. ch. vi. 

* Orig. and F. * religiones * ; ? * religiosos \ 




[book in. 

of religion, inasmuch as whereby a man sins thence too shall 
come the penalty of sin. Of the holy place he made a profane 
pleasance ; but a great and public sin must needs be followed 
by a condign punishment \ 

The holy mar- 
ried life of 
Malcolm and 

CHAP. VIII.— O/' the rest of the acts of Malcolm, king of the 
Scots, and how the holy life of his wife brought him too to the practice 
of piety. 

In the one-and-thirtieth year of the reign of Malcolm 
Canmore died William the bastard. Margaret, the wife of 
Malcolm, being herself a most devout woman, made of this 
sagacious and high-spirited king a man wholly religious ; this 
saintly woman made of him a saintly man. And it is no 
wonder : for, as the royal psalmist sings, * With the holy thou 
wilt be holy \ This woman was wont to be present daily at 
five masses celebrated in succession, and the king at two or 
three. They fed daily three hundred of the needy, and with 
their own hands gave them to eat and drink. On each day in 
Advent and in Lent the king was accustomed to wash the feet 
of six poor persons, and the queen did the same by a far larger 
number. He built the church of Durham, which the Britons 
call Dura ; he was at the time in possession of that part of the 
country. The foundations of the building were laid by Turgot, 
the admirable bishop of the see, by the convent, the prior, and 
the king ^ He richly endowed too the church of Dunfermline. 
But while Malcolm was besieging the fortalice of Alnwick, a 
certain soldier brought to him the keys of the castle on the 
point of a spear, and so put the king off his guard, and 

^ Major thus attributes the formation of the New Forest to William Rufiis, 
not to William the Conqueror, and he is here in agreement with Caxton, who 
adds, as to the manner of Rufus's death, that ' it was no meruayle, for the daye 
that he dyed he had let to ferme the archebysshopryche of Canterbury*. — 
Chronicles, fol. Ixxvi. ed. 1528. 

2 Turgot was prior (not bishop) from 1087. The bishop was William of St. 
Carilef, who held the see from 1080 to 1099, but was for three years of that time 
in exile. It is supposed that it was during his banishment in Normandy that he 
conceived the design of rebuilding Durham Cathedral. That Malcolm was 
present at the ceremony of the foundation seems very probable. Cf. Simeon 
of Durham, in Twysden's Scriptorcs Decern, col. 218. 


slew him. Hence let those to come take warning, and never 
give audience to an enemy but in presence of many soldiers ^. 

From what has just been said it is clear that though Malcolm 
held certain places in Northumberland up to four-and-twenty 
leagues, the English were nevertheless in possession of various 
fortified places that lay between the parts held by Malcolm 
and Scotland. This is clear from the case of the new castle, 
which is distant two-and-twenty leagues from Alnvicus or 
Alnwick, and ten from Berwick. 

CHAP. IX. — Concerning Donald, Dufican, and Edgar, kings of the 
Scots, their children^ and their deeds. 

When Malcolm Canmore had thus been taken off his guard 
and slain, Donald Bane, trusting to the support of the king of Donald Bane. 
Norway, invaded the kingdom of the Scots. But Duncan, a Duncan. 
bastard son of Malcolm, rose in rebellion against Donald his 
paternal uncle, and putting his uncle to the rout, placed the 
crown upon his own head. Here we see plainly how no near- 
ness of kinship stands in the way of one who will grasp at a 
kingdom. Malcolm Canmore had left behind him sons of an 
excellent disposition ; and yet here is their father'^s brother, an 
aged dotard — and a bastard, and such an one rarely comes to 
good^-disturbing their rightful inheritance. This scoundrel 
of a bastard reigned for a year and a half. He met his end by 
the craft of his uncle Donald ^ and the earl of Meams, by name 
Malpet, and on his death Donald reigns once more. 

Now when Edgar the Englishman, an exile from his native 
land, the brother of Saint Margaret, saw how matters stood, he 
sent his nephews, the rightful heirs to the Scottish throne, into 
England ; and there some of them died. We have no certain 
knowledge of the manner of their death ; but three of them 
survived. The eldest of these was Edgar ; and under the Edgar, 
guidance of his uncle Edgar, he rose against Donald Bane, and 

^ CC Bk. II. ch. iii., on the murder of Constantius. 

3 * Patrui sui Donaldi . . . dolo interiit \ There is no nominative, and 
grammatically the reference is to Donald Bane, but the context shows plainly 
that Duncan is intended. 


wrested from him, his father^s brother, the sovereignty. Inas- 
much as Saint Cuthbert had appeared to him at the beginning 
of the war and promised him that he should be victorious, he 
bestowed upon the church of Durham the lands of Coldinghame 
at Berwick \ This Edgar gave Matilda % whom our writers 
call Maud, to Henry king of the English in marriage, and 
Mary his younger sister to Eustace, count of Boulogne. Edgar, 
when be had reigned in peace for the space of nine years, was 
buried in Dunfermline close by his father under the high altar. 

CHAP. X. — Of Alexander the Fierce, king of the Scots. 

Ox the death of Edgar, in the year of our Lord eleven 
iderthe hundred and seven, Alexander, sumamed *the Fierce', took 
up the reins of government. He was thus called because his 
paternal uncle, the earl of Gowry, bestowed upon him at his 
baptism the lands of Liff and Invergowry *. Certain of his train 
belonging to Meams and Murvia, or Moray, made an attempt 
upon his life by night, using stratagem therefor ; but his chamber 
servant let him out by a privy. And since, by God'^s help, he 
had made good his escape, he founded at Scone a rich monastery 
of canons-regular*, endowing the same with the domain of LifF 
and Invergowry, and without delay pursued his enemies in their 
flight to the northern parts. When he came to that very 
rapid river, the Spey, he found that the robber enemy were on 
its opposite bank. The king was counselled not to attempt 
the ford. But, as soon as he set eyes upon the enemy, he 
could not contain his rage, gave the standard into the hands of 

^ Coldingham was for a long time a cell to the great monastery of Durham. 
Cf. the Rev. J. L. Low's Durham^ in * Diocesan Histories ', p. 27. 

' The eldest daughter of Malcolm and Margaret was christened ' Editha \ but 
the changed her name to Matilda in compliment to her husband's mother. Cf. 
Mr. E. W. Robertson's Scotland under her early Kings, voL i. p. 152. 

' Buchanan says Alexander was called *■ the Fierce ' from the character of his 
exploits. It is Bower, the interpolator of Fordun, who gives the singular reason 
reproduced by Major, of which I find no explanation attempted anywhere. 

^ Alexander the First re-formed the old Culdee foundation of Scone in 1 1 14 or 
1 1 15, and established in it a colony of canons- regular of the order of St. Augustine, 
whom he brought from the church of St. Oswald, at Nastlay near Pontefract. 


his body-servant, and successfully makes the passage of the 
ford, he and his man alone out of the whole army. Now, for Alexander's 
acting thus I hold the king to blame ; for it was the part of a ' °*^ 
foolhardy man, not of a brave man, thus to expose himself to 
such a contest with the enemy. Not so long before had the 
commonweal been shattered by the loss of a lawful monarch ; 
and it behoved the king to bear that in remembrance. Nor 
can I praise the soldiery, that they did not by force prevent 
the king, but gave up into the hands of a serving-man, 
Alexander Caron, that standard which should ever be borne 
before the king by a sufficient body-guard. This serving-man, 
because he was skilled in single combat, and in a certain duel 
had struck off, by one deft stroke, the hand of an Englishman, 
was called Skyrmengeoure, that is, the * gladiator' or * con- 
tender ** and that to this day is the name of the constable of 
Dundee^, who is descended from him. Having routed the 
enemy, the king returned to the southern parts of the kingdom, 
endowed the church of St. Andrew of Kilrimont, bestowed 
upon the blessed Andrew the *cursus apri**^, added to the 
riches of Dunfermline, founded Scone, and built a monastery 
for canons-regular in the island of Emonia, near to Inver- 
keithing, which is now called St. Columba'^s isle *. Seventeen 
years he reigned, and had an honourable burial at Dunfermline 
by the side of his father, of whose fortitude of mind and zeal 
for justice he was a true and worthy imitator. 

CHAP. XI. — Of David, thai inost excellent king of the Scots, in 
tvhoM are found tvonderful examples of all the virtiies; likewise of 
Henry, his son, and of his grandchildren, the issue of this Henry ; and 
of Richard of Saint Victor. 

On the death of Edgar and Alexander without issue, David, David, a king 
their brother, succeeded to the throne, in the year one thousand ®'^'*"^'^""^ 

^ William Wallace in 1298 granted a charter of land in Dundee and of the 
constabulary of the castle to Alexander ' dictus Skirmischur ' for his services as 

^ That is, in its modem name, ' Boarhills \ It was the district in the neigh- 
bourhood of St. Andrews which, in the Legend of St. Andrew, was given to 
the church by Hungus, king of the Picts. 

' Now ' Inchcolm *. 

134 JOHN MAJOR^S HISTORY [book m. 

one hundred and twenty-four. He was a more excellent man 
than his two brothers, and reigned for twenty-nine years and 
two months. The proud he tamed, beating them down as 
with a hammer, but to all that submitted duly to his authority 
he showed himself merciful and gracious ; giving fulfilment of 
that of Virgil, where he says *parcere subjectis et debellare 
superbos ** ^. And here I will make my frank confession that it 
transcends my feeble powers accurately to take the measure of 
this man ; yet within my narrow limits I will try, hurriedly it 
must be, to set down this and that concerning him. 

Stephen the With Stephen, king of the English, he fought two great 

battle8^,oneofthematAlertoun, in which he was victorious. He 
laid waste all Northumberland and Cumberland, and regained 
possession of these regions as a ransom for prisoners that he had 
taken. In the same year he again invaded England, and 
another bloody battle was fought between him and the English, 
that of the Standard, in which the Scots were beaten ; and at 

A treaty of length a treaty of peace was made between Stephen the 

Englishman and David the Scot upon these terms: that 
Northumberland should remain in the hands of Stephen and 
Cumberland in those of David. But this peace lasted no long 
time, for David got ready a fresh army wherewith to invade 
England; whereupon Turstan, archbishop of York, went to 
meet David at March mont castle, that is, at Roxburgh, and got 
David to assent to a truce for a time. But when the time 
of truce was out, he ravaged Northumberland to the utmost, 
so that king Stephen was unwilling to grant that region, 
according to his promise, to Henry, son of this same king 
David, whom Matilda had borne to him. King Stephen there- 
fore came to Roxburgh with a large army in the year eleven 
hundred and thirty-eight ; but, seized with a panic terror, he 
returned to his own country without doing any hurt to the 
Scots. In the following year king Stephen came to Durham, 

1 Virg. Aen, vi. 854. 

2 The battle of the Standard was fought August 22, 1138, on Cowton (or 
Cutton) Moor, two miles frora Northallerton. George Buchanan, like Major, 
follows Fordun and Boece in assigning a victory to David at Northallerton, but 
the battles of Allerton and of the Standard were one and the same. Cf. Mr. 
Hume Brown's George Buchanan^ p. 130. 


and tarried there fifteen days, the while David tarried in New- 
castle, and there they treated again about a peace. It was then 
that Matilda, queen of England, who was niece to king David 
by his sister Mary, came to that king, and entreated her uncle 
to consent to a peace. And peace was made on this wise : that Peace estab- 
Henry, son of David, should do homage to the English king 
for the earldom of Huntingdon, and should have free posses- 
sion of the earldom of Northumberland. For the mother of 
this Henry was daughter to Matilda, and heir to Valdeof, earl Matilda. 
of Huntingdon, who was son and heir to Siward, earl of 
Northumberland. David then returned and went to Carlisle, 
where he built a very strong castle, and raised to a great height 
the walls of the town. Thither did his niece, the empress 
Matilda, send to him her son, the future king of England, and 
there at the hands of king David did he receive, his knighthood. 

In this year Alberic the legate, bishop of Ostia, went to Aiberic the 
visit king David while he dwelt at Carlisle. For the rest, ®*^^ 
Henry, the only son of David, married Ada, daughter of the Ada. 
earl of Warren, and by her he had three sons: to wit, Malcolm, 
the future king of Scotland ; David, afterwards earl of Hun- Henry and 
tingdon and Gariach, and William, who also afterwards became '^ ^^^^' 
king of Scotland. Three daughters too were born to him : 
Margaret, whom he gave in marriage to the duke of Brittany, 
and Ada, to the count of Holland. The name of the third 
was Matilda. She died in tender age. Further, in the year of 
our Lord eleven hundred and fifty two, Henry, the only son of 
David, heir to his crown and likewise of his holy life, died at i>eaih of 
Kelso, and there was buried. David, his father, had founded Henry, 
this monastery, and most richly endowed the same. In various 
places did David found monasteries, of which some are very David's lavish 
wealthy, such as Kelso, Jedburgh, Melrose, Newbattle, Holin- ^^J^ t^oubs 
culstramen^, Dundrennan, Holyrood at Edinburgh, Cambus- 
kenneth, Kinloss, one for nuns at Berwick, for nuns at Carlisle 
one ; one of Praemonstratensian canons at Newcastle. There 
too he founded a monastery of Benedictines. 

The first James, when he visited the tomb of David, is james the Fir 
reported to have spoken thus : ' There abide, king most pious, ^'*^^^- 

^ Holmcultram, in the county of Cumberland. 

136 JOHN MAJOR'S HISTORY [book ui. 

but likewise to Scotland'^s state and kings most unprofitable " ; 
meaning thereby that on the establishment of some very 
wealthy communities he had lavished more than was right of 
the royal revenues. And I myself am of the same opinion ; 
for he made grants to those communities of more than six- 
score thousand francs from lands held in perpetuity by the 
crown; and upon the building of these religious houses he 
must have expended a much larger sum ^. 
That these Hereupon I may be allowed to make some observations. If 

^uid^ve"*^ he had taken count of those religious houses which had been 
been more founded by his predecessors, and likewise had considered that 
aaSweZ the Scots were wont to pay exceeding little in the way of taxes 

to their king, and further had foreseen the kind of life which 
the religious would come to lead, never would he have enfeebled 
the royal revenues for the aggrandisement of religious houses 
and their enrichment beyond what was wise. That wealth was 
indeed the offspring of a truly pious sentiment, but the wanton 
daughter ended by suffocating her mother. But all this 
notwithstanding, the king acted herein not wrongly, but, much 
What suffices rather, piously. For the constitution of an action that shall 
moraSy^goocT "^ morally good it is not necessary that it flow from a true 
action. understanding; it suffices that it be prompted by invincible 

ignorance, or by an error for which the agent is not responsible*. 
Those men were eye-witnesses of piety in its primitive fervour, 
and inasmuch as the abbots of those days made a religious use 
of their wealth, so did princes imagine that it would be for 
He censures ever. But now for many years we have seen shepherds whose 
traveUing friars. ^^^^ ^^^ j^ j^ ^^ g^^j pasture for themselves, men neglectful of 

the duties of religion, and all because, in the foundation of 
those institutions, no heed was taken for their prudent regula- 
tion. Behold then here what may happen to religion from the 
possession of great wealth ! By open flattery do the worthless 

^ In this matter Buchanan quotes Major with approval, and more kindly than 
in his autobiography. Cf. Mr. Hume Brown's George Buchanan^ p. 311. 

* In the 14th question of the 24th distinction of the In Quartum^ Major gives 
a curious example of * invincible ignorance ' in the case of a pope to whom a 
* divisus ab orbe Britannus' may have brought commendatory letters from a king, 
or, it may be, from other honourable men, extolling the bearer as a man of the 
highest worth. If such commendations are not justified, the pope may be 
credited with invincible ignorance, since ' papa non est supra jus naturae \ 


sons of our nobility get the governance of convents in com- 
mendam ^ — the wealth of these foundations is set before them 
like a mark before a poor bowman — and they covet these 
ample revenues, not for the good help that they thence might 
render to their brethren, but solely for the high position that 
these places oflTer, that they may have the direction of them 
and out of them may have the chance to fill their own pockets. 
Like bats, by chink or cranny, when the daylight dies, they 
will enter the holy places to suck the oil from out the lamps \ 
and under a wicked head all the members lead an evil life, 
according to the proverb, * When the head is sick, the other 
members are in pain \ An abbot once grown wealthy has to 
find sustenance for a disorderly court of followers — an evil 
example to the religious ; and not seldom, bidding farewell to 
the cloister, makes for the court, heedless of that wise saw, * As 
a fish out of water cannot live, so neither one of the religious 
outside the cloister ' ^ ; and if his body do indeed chance to be 
in the cloister, yet in the spirit of his mind and the manner of 
his life he is as one without. He may have brought ruin on 

^ Compare what Major says //i Quar/twt, 14th question of the 24th distinction, 
of the prelate who holds a benefice in commendam — that he is rather a bailifi 
(procurator) than a prelate of that church. In the 13th question he says that when 
Paul the Second was asked by some one to present him to two bishoprics, on 
the ground that he was the son of a king, Paul answered that he would not 
grant him that dispensation were he the son of God. Major's comment is : ' I 
say this answer was worthy of God's vicar.' In the 23d question of the 24th dis- 
tinction Major tells the same story, but tells it of Pope Benedict the Twelfth, * a 
man whom neither the menaces of kings nor the soft words of princes and kins- 
folk could turn from the narrow path of rectitude. . . . And when his kinsfolk 
endeavoured to persuade him that it was his duty to provide for tHose of his own 
blood, with this most admirable jest, and it was worthy of so great a pontiff, he 
made answer, saying that the Roman pontiff had no kinsfolk. O man, I 
say, worthy of the High-priesthood ! Thou honour of the Cistercians I Thou 
rival of St. Bernard, in the path of virtue. For on the one part of the centre of 
virtue Bernard dug new cisterns, by means of which, and on methods yet untried, 
he might attain to the centre of virtue ; but Benedict, sustained by virtue in 
angelic fashions, does here, as it were, point with his finger to the centre of virtue.' 

' A similar comparison is made in the 12th question of the 24th distinction in 
the In Quarium— with some violence to natural history : ' Those men, I say, are 
as owls ; for by night they make their way into the temple to suck the oil ; and 
when that is gone the lamps give light no more. ' 

2 Cf. Chaucer: Prologue to Canterbury Tales ^ 11. 179, 180: — 
' Ne that a monk, whan he is cloysterles, 
Is likned to a fissche that is watirles. ' 

138 JOHN MAJOR'S HISTORY [book hi. 

the farmer-tenants of the convent by raising their rents for the 

benefit of his own purse, and yet think — but therein he 

The meaning of greatly errs — that he has acted rightly. The duty and the 

* reUgious . ^^ ^£ ^.j^^ religious should be this : to live in the cloister 

without the society of secular persons ; let them not return to 
that Egypt on which they have turned their backs, nor 
remember any more the good things of fortune. Let them 
reckon an abbot who becomes his own land-steward to have 
taken upon himself a function far removed indeed from the 
practice of true religion, just as, among the apostles, the 
office of Judas as keeper of the purse was found to be more 
full of peril than another. Duties sucli as these are to be 
undertaken by men of the most approved integrity only. It 
behoves them to be frugal and sparing in food and drink, that 
so they may withstand the assaults of the body. For that is 
the true end of religion, and that end is promoted rather by 
the possession of this world's goods in moderation than by 
their abounding ; the wealth of an abbot, therefore, should not 
permit him to keep more than one or two servants^. 
David's upright David was remarkable for the virtues of temperance, forti- 
tude, justice, clemency, and regard for religion. He ate in 
moderation, was very sparing in drink — all that savoured of 
luxury was hateful to him. For, when his queen died in 

^ Major's commentary on the Fourth Book of the Sentences furnishes many 
illustrations of his views as to the manner of life of bishops and abbots. Thus, 
in the i8th question of the 24th distinction, he says that he considers twelve or 
fourteen servants to be a sufficient allowance for a bishop, and if the number 
were fewer it \^ould be better. He points out that in the actual expenditure of 
money we have not a proper measure of a bishop's extravagance or moderation, 
since the capon which costs two pennies Scots, ' hoc est parvo albo ', in the 
diocese of Ross will cost six times as much at Paris or Edinburgh. In the 20th 
question of the 24th distinction he severely censures the beneficed cleric who 
cares more for his own flesh and blood than for the orphan children of Christ and 
for his poor, who can hardly get kitchen to their bran loaf, while he himself 
lives like a swine of Epicurus. In the 22d question of the same distinction he 
blames the unlettered vulgar, and most of all the inhabitants of both kingdoms 
of the Britains, who in this matter are the greatest sinners, for their laudation of 
any prelate who fares sumptuously and splendidly, and feeds his household not 
only on barn-door fowls but on partridges and pheasants. If such a prelate, he 
says has spent the revenues of the church upon his kinsmen and his household, 
the common people will extol him, saying that he has nobly raised his house 
above the poverty of its original foundation, and deserved well of his household, 
while every wise man knows that out of what was dedicated to the service of God 
he has erected an altar to Baal. 



the flower of her youth, he kept inviolate his widowhood for 
three-and-twenty years. He was not to be moved to think of 
marrying again, nor did he outside the bonds of matrimony 
offend by word or deed in any single point against the law of 
chastity. He held in firm check and brought into due subjec- 
tion the nobles of his kingdom. Not only did he make a 
spirited resistance to his powerful enemy of England, who was 
in possession of many points outside of England, but even 
recovered these, and so increased his own possessions. With 
an equal balance he dealt justice to the poor man as to the 
rich. We read in his Life that, when he was one day about to A memorable 
go a-hunting, and already had his foot in the leather or the jSltic^ 
stirrup ^, a certain peasant approached him with a petition for 
justice ; and the king returned to the palace that he might 
hear and try the cause ^. And tlius he was wont to act in 
respect of many poor persons wlio could not easily get their 
causes tried in the ordinary course of law. Rich men, for the 
most part, he dismissed to the judges, but to the suits of 
peasants he listened seriously and kindly, so that some of them, 
in rustic fashion, would now and again argue with him on this 
point or that ; but, like the wise man he was, these things 
moved him not, and as if he were one of themselves he had 
compassion upon them, and never lost his temper. He was 
wont to give of his own means to him who had lost a suit, 
when he thought the quarrel just. Hence it came about that 
people resorted to liini ever more and more. And although 
his kindness toward the common people made him liail-fellow- 
well-met with all, and indeed he seemed to know somewhat of 
every man'*s craft, yet from his nobles and men in high position 
he required the observance due to a king, so that by all he was 
feared and loved ; yet he coveted to be loved rather than to 
to be feared. When he once saw some distinguished men in An instance of 
sorrow for the loss of his own son Henry, he invited them to a ^ pauence . 
banquet, and there, feigning a cheerfulness he did not feel, 
proposed a multitude of arguments that might tend to mitigate 
their grief. He was aware of his own impending death a full of his prevision 

^ Scansili seu stapeda. 

^ Dante {Purgaioriot canto x. 73-92) tells a similar story of the emperor 
Trajan ; and Gary, in a note on the passage, says that the original seems to be 
in Dio Cassius, lib. Ixix., where it is told of the emperor Hadrian. 



[book III. 

of bis wisdom 

of a want of 

His religious 

year before it came to pass, whether from the intimations of 
nature or, as is rather thought, by divine communication ; and 
of his liberality; for a whole year before his decease he doubled his accustomed 
of his piety; alms, and imparted the same with his own hands. Every 
Sunday he received the most sacred body of Christ. When he 
felt his end to be drawing near, he caused his grandson Malcolm 
to take a journey of inspection of every part of the kingdom, 
just as we read that David did with Solomon ^ ; and he com- 
mended Malcolm to the care of the earl of Fife, whom he 
trusted greatly. Before that time he had carried his grandson 
William to Newcastle, and had bestowed upon him all the 
lands which he held in Northumberland — a matter this, in 
which I cannot think that he showed his usual wisdom ; for so, 
as time went on, all sense of brotherhood and kinship between 
the king and William would suffer extinction. Rather should 
he have bestowed upon his first-bom and heir a country of 
assured boundary, and on William some territory in the centre 
of the kingdom. And when he felt that he was taken with a 
mortal sickness, he demanded that provision which is made for 
the last journey, that so he might more readily come to the 
end of the same ^ ; and inasmuch as he was unwilling to receive 
the viaticum in his own house, and yet on foot was unable to 
reach the church, he was borne by some of the religious and 
some persons of the court to his church ; and when he had 
heard divine service and devoutly received the eucharist, he 
felt that death was knocking at the door, and demanded extreme 
unction, and received it, like the Blessed Martin, on the naked 
earth. Now when the religious perceived the devout bearing 
of the king, they made all haste with the anointing ; and he, 
being aware of this, commanded them to do all their business 
with due leisure and little by little ; and, as he could, he made 
the responses at every point. When all was completed, he 
folded his arms in the form of a cross upon his breast, and with 
his hands unfolded towards heaven fell asleep in the Lord, not 
without due honour for his holy life. 

^ I Chron. xxiii. i. 

2 * ut celebrius de via ad terminum proficisceretur *. Probably we ought to 
read ' celerius ', for it was considered an important point that the last agony, 
when the evil spirits were in conflict with the good, should not be prolonged. 


Miracles are no way needed to attest holiness of life ^ ; since, Holiness of life 
in his lifetime, John Baptist (than whom none holier is found at^tedby^ ^ 
among those bom of woman) is not reported to have wrought "^'^c^^- 
any miracle. Miracles take place on account of the incredulity 
of a people, and for various other reasons. In virtue and 
renown this David excelled Fergus son of Ferchard, and Fergus David is pre- 
son of Erth, the first Kenneth, Gregory, his own father and the rest, 
brothers. As to the Ferguses there is no manner of doubt, for 
I place before them all the others that I have just named. 
And though Kenneth was more combative than David, and 
under incitement of the insults offered to his father entered the 
fierce lists of Mars against the Picts, and manfully conquered 
that people and put them to rout, yet in true fortitude I can 
no way give him pre-eminence over David, who, in addition, 
was crowned with temperance, justice, clemency, and piety. 

Finding four bishoprics in his kingdom, he founded nine He founds nim 
more. He caused harbours to be made along the sea-coast, bishoprics. 
With the nobles and chief men of the country he showed him- 
self a king ; with the poor he was as a father. Observant he 
was of religion in the church services and the hearing of mass; 
nay, — what is the chief wonder of all, — in his very court you His religious 
would have found a cloister of religious persons. He expelled ^*"^' 
from his company all who were stained with vice, like as proper 
bees drive out the drones from their hive. By word and 
example he trained up well-bom children in the ways of virtue, 
and brought them to be of one mind in the school of conduct. 
With a good king you shall find the court good, and with a bad 
king you shall find the court bad, all the world over. Nor is 
it hard to give a reason for this. The inferior spheres are The king a 
regulated in their course according to the motion of the^i|^™rs? 
primum mobile ^ : courtiers make it their study to please their 

^ St. Peter Damian {ob, 107 1) had already said that we must not estimate sanctity 
by miraculous power, since nothing is read of miracles done by the B. Virgin or 
St. John Baptist. Cf. Addis and Arnold's Catholic Dictionary^ s.v. miracles. 

' Cf. Parad, Lost^ iii. 481-484 : — 

They pass the planets seven, and pass the fixed, 
And that crystalline sphere whose balance weighs 
The trepidation talked, and that 6rst moved ; 

with Professor Masson's note in loco on the old astronomical system. 

Saint Victor. 

142 JOHN MAJOR'S HISTORY [book m, 

king, show themselves apes as it were of his every action, and 
imitate what they see to be agreeable to him. 
Richard of About the time of this David lived Richard of Saint Victor, 

a Scot by birth, a religious of the Augustinian order, and he 
was second to no one of the theologians of his generation ; for 
both in that theology of the schools where distinction is gained 
as wrestler meets wrestler on the battlefield of letters, and in 
that other where each man lets down his solitary pitcher, he was 
illustrious \ He published a vast number of most meritorious 
lucubrations. In one sermon of his, concerning the virgin 
mother of Christ, he was the first to make a distinct declara- 
tion that she was bom without the stain of original sin. He 
was buried in the cloister of St. Victor of Paris, and his tomb 
bears this inscription : — 

For virtue, genius, every art renowned. 

Here, Richard, thou thy resting-place hast found. 

Scotia the land that claims thy happy birth. 

Thou sleepest in the lap of Gallic earth. 

Though haughty Fate hath snapt thy 6hort>«pun thread, 

No scathe is thine ; thou livest still though dead. 

Memorials of thy ever-during fame. 

Thy works securely keep thy honoured name. 

With step too slow death seeks the halls of pride, 

With step too swift where pious hearts abide \ 

^ Richard of Saint Victor died about 1173. There are several editions of his 
works, of which the best is that in folio, Rouen, 1650. It is confirmatory of 
Major's description of him to find that he had constant disputes with the abbot 
of St. Victor, and had at the same time a strong natural bent towards mysticism. 

* I have to thank Mr. Hume Brown for supplying me with this excellent render- 
ing, in a medium in which I have no skill. The Latin original is as follows : — 

Moribus, ingenio, doctrina clarus, et arte, 

Pulvcreo hie tegeris, docte Richarde, situ. 
Quem tellus genuit foelici Scotica partu : 

Te fovet in gremio Gallica terra suo. 
Nil tibi Parca ferox nocuit, quae stamina parve 

Tempore tracta, gravi rupit acerba manu : 
Plurima namque tui superant monumcnta laboris, 

Qua tibi perpetuum sint paritura decus. 
Segnior ut lento sceleratas mors petit aedes, 

Sic propero nimis it sub pia tecta gradu. 


CHAP. XII.* — Of Henry Beauclerk, king of the English, and of 
the affairs of Normandy in his time. 

After the death without heirs of William Rous, that is, the 
Red, his brother Henry Beauclerk succeeded to him in England. 
Henry took to wife Matilda, commonly called Maud, sister to clerk. 
Edgar and to David. In his day the Blessed Anselm returned to 
England, and was kindly received by Henry. Meanwhile there 
sprang up a quarrel between Robert Curtoys^ duke of Normandy 
and Henry the Englishman his brother ; and Robert made a Norman. 
descent upon England with a large army. But by the counsel 
of their chief men a peace was arranged between them on this 
wise : that Henry should pay yearly to Robert a sum of one 
thousand pounds sterling (this pound is worth three nobles), r^^ ^^^ 
and that the longer liver of the two should succeed to the coinage of 
other. Robert thereupon returned to Normandy whence he had °* 
come ; and after a short while came to his brother with a small 
following, and remitted to him the payment of this slender 
pension. Henry at length went to Normandy; but Robert 
had come to be hated by the Normans, and he therefore made 
Normandy over to his brother Henry, who carried Robert his 
brother with him to London. After no long time his daughter 
Matilda, for she rejoiced in her mother'*s name — the sister of 
David king of the Scots had borne her to him — came to mar- 
riageable years. This daughter English Henry gave in marriage 
to the emperor Henry^. Soon after this William and Richard*, 
sons to the king, were drowned, on the Blessed Katherine'^s 
day, as they were passing from Normandy into England. On 
the death of the emperor Henry * the empress Matilda returns 
to England. To her the nobles of England do homage : first 
of them all, the archbishop of Canterbury, and in the second 
place, as Caxton will have it^, David king of the Scots— and 

^ Orig. misprints ' XIII.' for ' XII.*, and misnumbers the rest of the chapters 
to the end of the book. F. copies the mistake. 

^ i.e. Curthose. 

' i.e. the Fifth. He died in 1 125. 

■* This is Richard of Chester, an illegitimate son of Henry the First. — See 
the Rev. J. F. Dimock's preface to the seventh volume of the works of 
Giraldus Cambrensis, in the Rolls Series, p. 27. The wreck of the White Ship 
happened in 11 20. 

* Caxton : Chronicles, u.s. fol. Ixxviii. 



[book hi. 

Scotland tribu- after them the rest of the nobles. If he understands this 

tary to none, homage as done for the kingdom of Scotland, I deny the state- 
ment, as one that cannot be proved. Amongst the Scots is 
but one unbroken opinion : namely, that in matters temporal 
their kingdom has never been subject to any. For the territory 
that it hcul in England, I frankly admit that it paid homage 
to Matilda, and I make the admission the more readily, in that 
Matilda was daughter of a sister-german of David. Among 
the Scottish chroniclers I nowhere find it stated that David 
ever journeyed to London for the performance of this service. 
He did indeed visit the central parts of England, as the 
English chroniclers themselves confess, and that with a large 
armed force, that he might bring succour to his niece Matilda, 
and in all good peace returned from mid England into Scot- 
land. This Matilda was afterwards had to wife by Geoffrey, 
earl of Anjou, to whom she bore a son, Henry, commonly 
called Henry son of the emperor. A short time thereafter 

Death of Henry the king of the English passed from life to death in Normandy^. 

of England. jjjg 1^^^^^ ^^8 buried in the chief church of Our Lady at 

Rouen, and his body in the monastery of Reading, which him- 
self had built. He reigned for thirty years and four months. 

Stephen the 

The unjust 
action of the 

CHAP. XIII. — Of Stephen, king of the English, his reign and death. 

After the death of Henry, Stephen count of Boulogne ^ was 
crowned king of the English. For he was sister''s son to this 
Henry lately deceased. And William, bishop of Canterbury ^ 
who had been the first to swear fealty to Matilda, anointed 
Stephen king, and Roger *, bishop of Salisbury, was likewise of 
that party. Now I cond*^mn those priests as altogether fickle and 
unjust, seeing that they preferred to the king's own daughter, 
to whom too they had sworn fealty, his nephew by a sister, 

* Henry the First died December i, 1135. 
^ Bolonia : — generally * Bononia *. 

^ William of Corbeil, archbishop. 

* This was that bishop Roger who won the favour of Henry the First 
because he said mass in a shorter time than any other priest — Professor S. 
R. Gardiner's A Students History of England ^ vol. i. p. 126. 


This they would not have attempted without the hope of some 
particular advantage to themselves, wherefore they must stand 
charged as worthless violators of their oath. For it behoved 
them to take due counsel with the lay nobility as to the true 
and incontestable heir, and not by ways indirect, for his advan- 
tage or their own, to make an unlawful king. 

In the first year of his reign Stephen visited the northern 
parts of England, that he might exact homage from David, king 
of the Scots, for the lands which the latter held in England 
(for this Stephen was sisters son to David) — a demand that 
David, like a righteous man, refused : not only because he had 
already paid homage to Matilda, but also in that he knew the 
right to the crown to belong in no way to Stephen. 

In the fourth year of king Stephen, Matilda returned to Arrival of 
England, and went to a city called Nicol or Nicolai ^ which ^^J^^"* 
Stephen forthwith besieged ; but the empress made her escape 
therefrom without scathe to herself or her following ; and after 
their departure Stephen takes the town. Ralph earl of 
Chester meanwliilc, and Robert earl of Gloucester, lord Hugh 
Bygot, and lord Robert Morlay raised a large army against 
Stephen, and led him captive to the castle of Bristol. There- 
after they placed the empress Matilda on the throne ; but the 
people of Kent and William Preth^, with his followers, 
favoured the side of Stephen, who was now imprisoned ; and 
with them, according to Caxton, was the king of the Scots. 
Thus they brought it so far that they weakened the following 
of the queen, and took captive the chief men upon her side, 
to gain whose ransom Stephen was allowed to go free. From 
Winchester the queen went secretly to Oxford, and there she 
tarried some time; but when she learned that the earl of 
Gloucester had been taken prisoner while he was defending her 
interest, she left Oxford all unobserved, by water, and went 
to Wallingford, and there abode. What Caxton says, and says 
at much length, about David, king of the Scots*, is mere 

^ * The citeof NichoU * (Caxton, u.5. fol. Ixxix.), ue. Lincoln. See an/Cf p. 109. 

'■^ *Preth'. Caxton, u.s. fol. Ixxix., writes of * William of Pree and his 
retynue \ 

' Caxton says [u.s. fol. Ixxix.) that Stephen ' assembled a grete hoost and went 
towarde Scotland for to haue warred vpon the kyng of Scotland. But he came 




[book III. 


Death of 

The evils 
of grief. 

raving ; for he favoured the side of the empress, his niece, and 
took part in the battle in which Stephen was made prisoner. 
About this time, according to Caxton, the French king 
repudiated his wife the heiress of Gascony, and Henry earl of 
Anjou and duke of Normandy took her to wife. And after- 
ward, in the eighteenth year of king Stephen, Henry invaded 
England with a large army ; but, without coming to the resort 
of war, they made this agreement : that the one should hold 
the one half, and the other the other half, of the kingdom. 
But in the following year Stephen pined away with melancholy. 
For melancholy shortens life, and the greater the melancholy, 
the more rapid is the shortening ; wherefore there can be so 
vast a melancholy that in short space it shall consume the life 
of a man, according to that saying of the wise man : A sorrow- 
,/W spirit drieth up the bones ^ ; wherefore 'tis a prudent mane's 
part to mitigate the force of sorrow. 

Henry of 
Anjou: his 


CHAP. XIV. — Of Henry earl of Anjou^ and king of England, 

After the death of Stephen from melancholy, — since to have 
been happy once, and no longer to be happy, is a great mis- 
fortune*, — Henry succeeded him in the whole of his possessions ; 
and he was a very powerful king, seeing that, besides all England, 
he bore sway over Aquitaine, Anjou*, and Normandy. He it 
was who, in his youth, was knighted, at Carlisle, by David the 
Scot. When he had once got the mastery in England, he 
created Thomas Becket bishop^ of London, archbishop® of 
Canterbury, and chancellor of England. In the fourth year of 
his reign, Henry took possession of Wales. There in some 

agaynst him in peas and in good maner, and to hym trusted, but he made to 
hym none homage, for as moche as he had made vnto ye empresse Maud. ' 

1 Prov. xvii. 22. 2 Andium. 

' Cf. nessun maggior dolore, 

Che ricordarsi del tempo felice, 

Nella miseria, e cio sa*l tuo dottore. — Dante, Inf, canto v. 121. 
It was probably from Boethius, De consol, philos, lib. i. pr. 4, and not from 
Dante that Major borrowed this utterance. Cf. Cary's note on the passage in 
the Inferno. 

^ And^avia. • ' praesuL ' archiflamen. 


measure the Britons still dwelt, and preserved the independence 
of their princes ; but the Scots, as Caxton asserts, held Carlisle 
city in Cumberland, Bamburgh, New Castle upon Tyne, along 
with the county of Lancaster, all in England. 

About this time Thomas of Canterbury was banished from Banishment o 
England, because the king desired to subject churchmen to the Canterbury, 
judgment of the secular courts, and that man of God, Thomas 
of Canterbury, resisted any such sentence, and therefore was 
driven into exile. The question whether the clergy are, under 
the divine law, exempt from lay jurisdiction is pretty frequently 
discussed among men of learning. And, though neither side ^ler^ u^y 
be without support from men of that sort, I liold the affirmative d"^*"« ^^ 

^^ , exempt from 

answer to be more agreeable to reason. This appears from that layjurisdictio 
of Boniface the Eighth in the chapter Quenquam concerning 
assessments ^, in the section Cum iffitur ^, where he says, * Since, 
therefore, churches and churchmen, and their possessions, are 
by human law and, yet further, by divine law exempt from the 
exactions of secular persons \ and the rest. It is not fitting 
that the church of the true God and His ministers should be 
in a worse condition than the ministers of a false God ; and 
under Pharaoh priests had an immunity from taxes imposed by 
the king. For, as we read in the forty-seventh chapter of 
Genesis^, Joseph brought under subjection to Pharaoh the 
whole land of Egypt, and all its peoples, from one end of the 
borders of Egypt to the other, — all but the land of the priests. 
And from that time to this day, in all the land of Egypt, a 
fifth part is paid to the kings ; and this takes place as a legal 
enactment except from the priests' land, which was free from 
this obligation. And in the first book of Esdras, at the 
seventh chapter, king Artaxerxes wrote to his ministers, * We 
command you also, that ye require no tax, nor tribute, nor 
yearly imposition of any of the priests or Levites, or 
singers, or porters, or ministers of the temple'*. The same 
is clear from the ninety- sixth distinction chapter Duo sunty 
chapter Cum ad verum^ and chapter Imperator^ with the Glosses 

^ de censibus. 

* Corpus Juris Canoniciy ed. Richter, Lips. 1879 : c. un. C. XXXV. qu. i. 

' verses 20-22. * I Esd. vii. 24. 

148 JOHN MAJOR^S HISTORY [book hi. 

thereto ^. Nor is that objection, urged by others, of weight : 
namely, that Paul made his appeal to Caesar, a layman, where 
he says, in the twenty-fifth chapter of the Acts, * I stand at 
Caesar's judgment-seat, where I ought to be judged '*^; and for 
this reason : in a case where the ecclesiastical power is wanting, 
it is permitted to appeal to a lay court, as appears in the 
twenty-third, q,v, chapter Prhicipes scctiU ^, where Isidore says, 
* Secular princes sometimes hold within the church the supreme 
power, in order that by the exercise of that power they may be 
a support to ecclesiastical discipline \ But these powers would 
not be necessary within the church, unless only for this cause : 
that the thing which priests are unable to compass by the 
spoken word of teaching this power may effect fix)m fear of 
discipline. For often does the kingdom of heaven profit from 
an earthly kingdom on this wise : that when those whose place 
is within the church act contrary to her faith and discipline, 
they may be brought to naught by the rigour of an earthly 
ruler ; and that so the power of the prince may place upon the 
proud neck the very yoke which the church with all its claims 
cannot impose, and so communicate the virtue of its power as 
to be worthy of the reverence to which it makes its claim. 

Let princes know, then, that they will have to render an 
account to Grod for the church whose guardians they are 
by Christ''s appointment. For whether the peace and good 
government of the church be increased in the hands of faith- 
ful princes, or whether these suffer detriment, He who has 
delivered to them the power over His church will exact a 
reckoning for the same. The Gloss is here as follows : Laymen 
have within the church jurisdiction of many kinds, and that 
even when in their persons they are incorrigible, as in the 
thirty-sixth distinction Eos qui*. Just so, when they aim at 
subverting the faith, as in the eighth distinction Quo jure ^. 
Just so, when a cleric has committed forgery ; concerning the 
charge of forgery, Adjhlsariorum. 

I Corp. Jur. Can. u.s. coll. 339, 340, 341. c. 7. C. XII. qu. i. ; c. 6. D. 
XCVI. ; c. II. D. XCVI. (Si inperator). 

a verse 10. '^ Corp. Jur. Can. c. 20. C. XXIII. qu. 5. col. 936. 

* lb. c. I. C. XXXVI. qu. 2. col. 1290. 
^ lb, c. I. D. VIII. col. 12. 


Now there was no ecclesiastical authority which could have 
passed sentence upon Paul, both inasmuch as the Mosaic law was 
no longer in force, and as they would have wrongly condemned 
an innocent man ; wherefore he appealed to Caesar. And 
though some instances might be brought to prove that a cleric 
may not be judged by a layman, yet it does not follow that 
this has the sanction of divine law. This is plain from a case 
in point : To keep one''s vow is enjoined by the divine law, but 
in certain cases the obligation does not exist, and so in the 
case under discussion. And because at the present day this 
question is being discussed in England ^, I give my opinion in 
these few words. Let them consider the cause for which the 
Blessed Thomas lost his life, and in such a matter, or matters of 
the same sort, let not laymen interfere as against ecclesiastics. 
Let them likewise consider those customs observed from of 
old among ecclesiastics, and in respect of these let them make 
no innovation. I have not heard this matter discussed but in 
the abstract ; of its special applications I have no knowledge ; 
I do not therefore insist further. 

While the Blessed Thomas was in his seven years'* exile from 
England, and all his friends and familiars had on his account 
been sent into banishment, the French king brought about 
a reconciliation between the English king and Thomas, but 
because the story of this man has been told again and again, 
and his life is known to many, I shall spend but few words in 
the relation. 

1 This refers to the struggle in 1515 between the secular and ecclesiastical 
jurisdictions in Standish's case, * in the course of which Henry the Eighth is said 
to have expressed himself as determined to endure no division of sovereignty in 
his realm *. Henry Standish, the Provincial minister of the Franciscans (made 
bishop of St. Asaph in 1519), had taken, in 1515, the opposite side to the abbot of 
Winchelcombe in the controversy occasioned by the abbot's sermon against an 
Act of Parliament, by which the secular courts had been enabled to pass judg- 
ment upon all persons in orders, except those in the three holy orders of bishop, 
priest, and deacon, without the intervention of any ecclesiastical court. See 
Bishop Stubbs's second lecture on the history of the Canon Law in England in his 
Seventeen Lectures on the Study of Mediezuil and Modern History, Oxf. 1886, p. 
318. Cf. also the Rev. J. H. Blunt's The Reformation of the Church of England^ 
1882, pp. 395-399, and, for Standish's attitude in the matter of the Divorce, 
Sander's Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism (Lewis's trans. 1877), p. 65. 

150 JOHN MAJOR'S HISTORY [book hi. 

CHAP. XV. — Of the martyrdom of the Blessed Thomas, and the sin 
of the king. 

After his return from a seven years' banishment, Thomas 
went first of all to Canterbury ; and on the fifth day after the 
celebration of the festival of the birth of Christ — which same 
day the Church now holds dedicated to his memory — he met 
The martyrdom ^^^ death. His murder was compassed in this manner. While 
|rf the BicMcd |^jj|g Henry was sitting at breakfast on the festival of the bhi:h 
Canterbury. of Christ, the remembrartce of Thomas came into his mind, and 
he at once burst out with these words : * Had but the king 
some men of spirit ready to do his bidding, not long would 
they leave without result his anger against Thomas.' Soon 
thereafter, answering thus the outburst of the king, certain 
men of Belial planned how they might get rid of Thomas. 
The parricides These are their names : William Breton, Hugh Morvil, William 
Tracy, and Reginald Bersson, — that is, in Latin, * filius ursi', — 
knights all. They make for the church of Canterbury, and 
there, close by the altar of Saint Benedict, they murder the 
man of God, who in the year of the redemption of the world 
eleven hundred and seventy-two perished by the swords of 
The king's sin. wicked men. Mightily did this king offend against God. 
First of all, in that he wished to subject churchmen to the 
judgment of secular persons ; secondly, inasmuch as he banished 
Thomas when the latter was righteously defending a righteous 
cause, against which the king was unable to make a just 
defence ; and, yet further, inflicted upon the kin of Thomas a 
shameful punishment, and on others, who had joined themselves 
to him in his need, inflicted a like punishment ; and, what is 
worse, he was the means of slaying in the house of God a holy 
priest ; for the king'*s speech it was which gave the occasion of 
so fearful a murder. But he who is the occasion of any hurt is 
reckoned to have done the hurt. Behold, then, how that king 
was in travail with crime, conceived in grief, and brought forth 
iniquity. Still greater was the wrong done by the king to the 
actual murderers ; for he was the guilty cause of a murder, 
according to that word of Christ to Pilate : ' Wherefore he 


who delivered me to thee hath the greater sin'^. Where 
is law? where justice? where the Christian religion? where 
the laws of God ? — to murder a holy bishop of God in God's 
holy temple ! But it was after a splendid feast, and when he 
was inflamed with wine, that the king conceived this grievous 
thing, and brought forth iniquity following upon the injustice 
with which his soul had been in travail. For, grant one un- 
toward accident, and many evils follow ; this you shall find in 
the first book of the Physics. 

And thanks to this it is that something may be said British customs 
here by the way about those British customs that up to of the bkth of 
this present are observed — all unworthy of observance as^**''**- 
they are — at the feast of the Nativity. On these holy days 
it is the wont of the Britons to indulge in much super- 
fluous revelling, in banquets rich with every dainty, and all 
sorts of drink. They begin their Christmas banquet on the 
festival of the birth of Christ, and bring the same to an end 
after mid-day on the festival of John ; the days that follow 
this sumptuous banqueting they spend in devilish dances and 
lewd songs; — so far do they carry it, that the kings send for the 
the nobles of the kingdom and their wives. These men show 
themselves most unwise in thus taking their wives with them 
to these orgies of the court, for it would better become the 
chaste matron to stay at home. And if some among the chief 
men or the barons do not attend the king, they provide like 
feasting in their measure for their own people. With these 
the festival is kept in a tavern, not in a church, in such intem- 
perance of eating and drinking as is the enemy of chastity, in 
dances and lewd songs that are equally her foe. Outside 
Britain, in France for instance, in Flanders, and other parts 
beyond the sea, these festivals are more fitly celebrated ; for 
there a moderate meal is taken at mid-day, soon thereafter the 
people go to church to hear the gospel of God ^ ; and such like- 
wise is the custom observed at Easter, at Pentecost, and the 
rest of the solemn festivals. If this Henrv, of whom we are 
now speaking, had eaten in moderation, and thereafter had 

' St. John xix. ii. 

'^ ut verbum Dei evangelizans audiatur. 

152 JOHN MAJOR^S HISTORY [book iii. 

heard the word of God in church, he would not have 
brought forth a murder odious in the sight of God. But 
so much is on this point enough \ With the martyrdom of 
the Blessed Thomas of Canterbury we will make an end of 
this Third Book. 

* As curiously illusirating the different attitudes of Erasmus and Major to 
Becket, compare Erasmus's dialogue narrating the visit of Colet and himself in 
the year 1514, that is only four years before the date of Major's History, to 
the shrine of Canterbury : — * Colet asks the guide whether St. Thomas-k-Becket, 
when he lived, was not very kind to the poor? The verger assents. **'Nor can 
he have changed his mind on this point, I should think," continues Colet, 
** unless it be for the better." The verger nods a sign of approbation. Where- 
upon Colet submits the query whether the saint, having been so liberal to the 
poor when a poor man himself, would not now rather permit them to help 
themselves to some of his vast riches, in relief of their many necessities, than let 
them so often be tempted into sin by their need. And the guide still listening 
in silence, Colet in his earnest way proceeds boldly to assert his own firm con- 
viction, that this most holy man would be even delighted that, now that he is 
dead, these riches of his should go to lighten the poor man's load of poverty, 
rather than be hoarded up here. At which sacrilegious remark of Colet's, the 
verger, contracting his brow and pouting his lips, looks upon his visitors with a 
wondering stare out of his gorgon eyes, and doubtless would have made short 
work with them, were it not that they have come with letters of introduction 
from the archbishop. Erasmus throws in a few pacifying words and pieces of 
coin, and the two friends pass on to inspect, under the escort now of the prior 
himself, the rest of the riches and relics of the place. All again proceeds smoothly, 
till a chest is opened containing the rags on which the saint, when in the flesh, 
was accustomed to wipe his nose and the sweat from his brow. The prior, 
knowing the position and dignity of Colet, and wishing to do him becoming 
honour, graciously offers him, as a present of untold value, one of these rags. 
Colet . . . takes up the rag between the tips of his fingers with a somewhat fasti- 
dious air, and . . . then lays it down again in evident disgust. The prior, not 
choosing to take notice of Colet's profanity, abruptly shuts up the chest, and 
politely invites them to partake of some refreshment.' The dialogue — *Pere- 
grinatio Religionis ergo ' — is quoted at some length in Mr. Seebohm's Oxford 
Reformers (pp. 287-293), from which work the extract given above is taken. 


CHAP. I. — Of the war between the foresaid Henrif, king of' the 
English, and fds son, and t/ie peace that was made betfveen them ; of 
the defection of t/ie Irish to the English ; and of the penitence of Henry, 
and the extent of his dominions at the time of his deaih. 

Against Henry the father Henry the son rose in rebellion, War iween 
and not undeservedly, just as David"'s sons rebelled against ** **^*" ^"* 
David on account of the murder of Uriah. But at length a 
peace was made between father and son. Henry the son bore 
sway in the time of his father, but as he did not survive his 
father he is not reckoned among the kings. The elder Henry 
got possession of a great part of Ireland, as our own chroniclers Ireland is lost 
relate ; but the manner of our loss of Ireland they do not ^giish. 
report ^ ; whether we lost it through some negligence of our 
kings, or because we made demands - of the people beyond the 
rightful tribute, they thought it better to leave Ireland than to 
keep it. I take it that the English king makes little or nothing 
out of his possession of Ireland. When king Henry died his 
sovereign power extended far and wide. He was in peaceful Countries that 
possession of A(|uitaine, Anjou, Normandy, and Ireland ; all Henry's sw^ 
these he had by hereditary right, except Wales and Ireland, *" ^'* °^** ^^^ 
which he obtained by conquest. For the murder of the Blessed 
Thomas, as the chroniclers relate, a deep repentance overtook 
him. He died in the thirty-sixth year of his reign. 

^ See ante, p. 113, note *. 

'^ Grig, and F. * cxposuimus * ; ? expoposciinus. 



He is taken 
prisoner ; 

CHAP. II. — Of Ricliardy the emperors son^, king of the English, 
who went as a warrior to tlie Holy Land, hut on his return was, by the 
duke of Austria, wickedly taken prisoner, and by Ids own people nobly 
ransomed ; here too is treated of the reason of an abundance and of a 
scarcity of children ; something likewise about robbers. 

Inasmuch as Henry the elder brother survived but a short 
King Richard, time, Richard succeeded to Henry the son of the empress. 
This Richard went to Palestine and the Holy Land, and 
recovered many of the possessions that had been taken from 
the Christians, and still more might have been recovered had 
he and the French king been of one mind. But meanwhile he 
learned that his brother John, earl of Oxford, had formed 
designs against England, and thither he returned. On his 
journey, however, he was taken prisoner by the duke of Austria, 
and delivered to the emperor, in whose power he remained a 
fast prisoner, until he might be able to pay to the emperor a 
ransom of one hundred thousand pounds sterling. To supply 
such a ransom there was sold every second gold or silver vessel 
among those which were used for the service of God, while 
many among the monks, and most of all those of tlie Cistercian 
order, sold their books. One thing here I approve ; but the 
rest I condemn. Wrongful and contrary to the law of nations 
was the action of the duke of Austria and the emperor in thus 
taking prisoner a man who had done good service to the Chris- 
tian commonwealth. Small share had they, I reckon, of the 
faith or of the Christian religion. It behoves Christian princes 
to join with one mind in driving beyond their bounds that 
Mahometan tribe ; but, alas ! they take more care to quarrel 
among themselves and to increase each one his own territory 
than to labour for the greater glory of God. Wherefore, if I 
may use such language, it would seem that God, in weariness 
and disgust of them, permitted them to harass and fight with one 

is ransomed. 

^ It was Richard's father, Henry the Second, who was Henry * Fitzempress *, 
his mother Matilda having married the emperor Henry the Fifth. So singular a 
mistake as that of the text, followed, as it is, by a correct statement in the first 
sentence of the chapter, makes one suppose that the headings of the chapters 
may be not Major's work but his printer's. 


another. Among the common people there is more of religion, 
more soundness in the faith. The other action I approve : 
this, to wit, that the English showed their affection for their 
king; and they acted rightly in selling every second vessel. For 
the patrimony of the Crucified One is with justice to be spent 
on pious uses, when the needs of the clergy and holy places 
have first been met; and among works of piety this of ransom- 
ing the captive, and most of all when he is a good king, The magnifi- 
occupies by no means the lowest place, but rather the highest of the EngUsi 
place of all, — and to all this add the circumstance that he was onheirking" 
one who had the strongest claims upon the whole Christian 
commonwealth. But the king lived thereafter for a short time 
only. For he was a high-spirited man ; yet in this wise, and 
with some deep design, he was without cause cast into prison 
by his own Christian brethren, who ought to have succoured him 
in his extremity — whence it came to pass that sorrow shortened 
his days ^. He reigned exactly nine years, and he left no issue. 

But here perchance you will ask why the common people have The reason 01 
many children, and wliy with the nobles this is not so. It is not and of fewnes 
difficult to assign a natural cause for the fact. The nobles are of children. 
given to rich foods and an over-indulgence in the same, and are 
addicted too much to pleasure ; their wives grow sluggish in the 
ease and quiet of their lives, and, like their husbands, are intem- 
perate in diet. Now such things are unfavourable to fruitful- 
ness. The diet of the common people, on the other hand, is 
coarse in kind, and has in it much superfluous strength; in 
sexual pleasure they are sparing; their days are spent in con- 
tinuous bodily exercise, and this conduces more than aught else 
to a prolific and fruitful seed. After a moderate supper, or 
with none at all, generation is more probable than after a 
sumptuous feast ; nor can a drunken man have knowledge of 
a woman, since from the oppression of the natural forces 
he cannot emit a fruitful seed. Sometimes, too, God gives 
children ; this you can gather from the psalmist in the psalm, 
' Blessed are all they that fear the Lord\ where it is written, 
' For thou shalt eat the labours of thine hands : O well is thee, 

^ Richard Cceur-de-Lion died of the wound he received at the siege of Chilus 
in 1 199. 

156 JOHN MAJOR^S HISTORY [book iv. 

and happy shalt thou be'^ Those men, for the most part, who 
have to struggle for their daily bread by working with their own 
hands observe more fully than others the commands of God and 
of those that are set in authority over them ; wherefore it is 
here added, * Thy wife shall be as the fruitful vine upon the 
walls of thine house ; thy children like the olive-branches round 
about thy table. Lo, thus shall the man be blessed that feareth 
the Lord ''^. And, applying this argument a contrario^ he who does 
not fear the Lord shall not be thus blessed. I do not deny that 
the possession of children may in some cases be an evil ; where, 
for instance, the parents arc hard and unjust, and where, like 
Niobc in the fabling of the poets, they show to their children 
To be childless an inordinate affection. Wherefore to be childless, even in the 
some cafes. * state of marriage, is no effectual sign of the divine displeasure, 

since this condition may be common to good and bad alike. 
And this is plain in the case of this very Richard, whom we 
reckon worthy among kings, and prefer before his father^; but, 
all intent as he was on the things of war, he had little inclina- 
tion for a husband'^s duty. I do not forget that some women 
are barren and unfruitful, others fruitful and prolific ; but this 
condition may co-exist alike where the husband is impotent 
and in the reverse case, and the consideration is therefore no 
way pertinent. 
The English About this time it was, as I conceive, that there flourished 

Hood alid those most famous robbers Robert Hood, an Englishman, and 
LitUe John. Little John, who lay in wait in the woods, but spoiled of their 
goods those only that were wealthy. They took the life of no 
man, unless either he attacked them or offered resistance in 
defence of his property. Robert supported by his plundering 
one hundred bowmen, ready fighters every one, with whom four 
hundred of the strongest would not dare to engage in combat. 
The feats of this Robert are told in song all over Britain. He 
would allow no woman to suffer injustice, nor would he spoil 

* Ps. cxxviii. 1,2. '^ lb. 3, 4. 

' Richard's crusade and his Norman wars did not leave him much leisure for 
work at home ; but modern research has shown him to have been something 
more than a great soldier, and the late Mr. J. R. Green {Stray Studies^ p. 216) 
calls attention to his lavish recognition of municipal life. In the first seven 
years of his reign he granted charters to Winchester, Northampton, Norwich, 
Ip-^wich, Doncaster, Carlisle, Lincoln, Scarborough, and York. 


the poor, but rather enriched them from the plunder taken 
from abbots. The robberies of this man I condemn, but of 
all robbers he was the humanest and the chieP. 

CHAP. III. — Of John, that far from worthy king of the English; 
of the interdict which was laid upon England, and of the assignment 
of the tribute to the Roman pontiff ; the poisoning of the king, and its 

On the death of Richard, that most Christian hero, his brother English John, 
John — a fickle man he was and greedy of empire — succeeded 
him. He waged a war with France, in which he lost utterly the 
duchy of Normandy and the earldom of Anjou. Returning to 
England, he begged a tithe of the clergy, to the end he might 
recover the territories in France that had been lost. About 
that time the convent of Canterbury elected as archbishop 
of Canterbury Stephen Langton, a very learned man. At 
this the king took offence, and sent into exile the prior of 
Canterbury, with the convent, forbidding at the same time 
that any pontifical precept should be received in regard to 
Stephen Langton. Meanwhile the Roman pontiff besought 
the king to restore to their places the prior and convent, and 
when the king obstinately refused to obey, the pontiff laid all 
England under an interdict, and long-lasting quarrels ensued England laid 
between the pope, on behalf of the clergy, and the king. At interdict! 
length Innocent the Third, who was at that time pope, sent to 
the French king, and besought him to invade the kingdom of 
England, and take it for himself, on account of the obstinacy 
shown by the king of England. When English John came to 
hear of this — whether it was that he feared to lose his kingdom, 
or that he was moved by true contrition — he resigned the 
kingdom of England and of Ireland into the hands of the Roman 
pontiff, in the hope that he might thereby soften his heart, and 
promised for himself and his successors that they should hence- 

^ Camden {Britanm'a, p. 642, ed. 1600) quotes Major as his authority for the 
story of Robin Hood. For another early Scottish reference to the story, see 
Mr. /E. J. G. Mackay's IVilUam Dunbar, Introd. pp. ccliv.-cclvi. Major calls 
Robin Hood * Robertus Hudus *. 



[book IV. 

England made 
subject to the 
Roman pontiff. 

Whether a 
king have the 
power to 
alienate the 
rights of his 

forward hold England and Ireland of the Roman pontiff; to 
which the cardinal, who was present on behalf of the pontiff, 
as the custom is, readily assented. And at that time Peter'*s 
pence, that is, the pence given to Saint Peter, were first im- 
posed ; for English John obliged himself and his successors to 
pay yearly a thousand silver marks, that is, two thousand 
nobles, or six thousand francs, to the Roman court. 

But here a difficulty occurs by the way : Whether, namely, 
any king have the power to bestow on any one the rights of 
his kingdom, or its fixed revenues ? The answer may be made 
by propositions ; of which — 

The First is this : If the English or the French king were 
to part with his rights in respect of his kingdom to the Turk, 
or any other not rightful heir of the same, to that other these 
rights are worthless. The proof: The king holds his right 
as king of a free people, nor can he grant that right to any 
one against the will of that people ^. 

Second proposition ; That king acts wickedly who, without 
ripe counsel held with the nobles of his kingdom, bestows 
upon any other the revenues to be granted by the people. 
The proof : Such king, without the explicit or interpretative 
consent of the people, lays a burden on that people. But 
such a tax as this tlie people is not held bound to pay. 

Third proposition : Since the dispute was between the king 
and the English church as to the properties that had been 
taken from the latter, and most of all from the Cistercian 
religious, it behoved the king to make a particular restitution 
to the church. This is clear : For he spoiled them of property 
which he did not restore. 

Fourth proposition : That manner of restitution does not 
suffice which gives one quota to the Roman church in place of 
the many of which another particular church has been de- 

^ Cf. the still stronger expressions in the loth question of the 1 5th distinction 
of Major's /n Quartum, fol. Ixxvi. ed. 1 521 : * Whence it is plain that kings are 
instituted for the good of the people, as the chief member of the whole body, 
and not conversely. ... In the second place it follows that the w-hole people 
is above the king [quod totus ix)pulus est supra regem] and in some cases can 
depose him . . . The king hath not that free power in his kingdom that I have 
over my books. * Cf. also ch. xviii. of this Book : * Rex enim non habet ita 
liberum dominium in suo regno, sicut tu in tunica tua.* 


spoiled ; and if John sought in this way to find some shield 
or shelter to secure him against full retribution, he acted 
without due consideration. For, grant the opposite: Then 
any tyrant may spoil a church of a hundred thousand pieces 
of gold by taking absolution from the Roman pontiff, and yet 
all the time possess wherewith to make restitution — to say 
which is to talk nonsense. 

Fifth proposition : If John and the English people had 
covenanted together as to this yearly tribute to the pontiff, it 
was justly paid ; but nothing of it came from the royal purse — 
the whole tribute was taken from the people. For the king 
collected more than he handed over to the pontiff. Three 
hundred marks he gave in respect of Ireland, and seven 
hundred in respect of England. I do not believe that he could 
raise yearly, in that part of Ireland which alone he held, three 
hundred pounds ; but in England alone he collected much 
more than the total amount. But however this may be, since 
the pontiffs are in possession the money has to be paid to 
them ; and it is so paid ^ ; and for this purpose they keep a 
collector in England ; and the kings of England, when they 
come to the throne, receive investiture of the pontiffs by a 
legate^. Some time after this, however, occurred a breach 
between John and his nobles ; wherefore these send an embassy 
to Philip, the French king, praying him to send over to them 
his son Lewis, and saying that they would make him king of 
the English. He was welcomed by the English. 

A short time thereafter a certain monk of the monastery of 

^ In the 4th question of the 24th distinction of the In Quartum^ fol. clviii. 
Major writes thus : * For if it be admitted that the supreme pontiff has dominion 
in matters temporal causaliter^ and can effect much towards the deposition of 
kings by persuasion, by counsel, yea, by provoking some to use the sword against 
others — when these are the destroyers of the faith and once for all avail nothing 
to the Christian commonwealth — this is more lightly to be borne, and no way 
contradicts what I have said. If even some kings, in concert with their peoples, 
have surrendered to the Roman pontiffs, as is reported of the English — that 
touches my contention not at all. For a collector of the Roman pontiff collects 
money in England — from every house a penny, as I have understood. But then 
it behoves us to consider whether it was the king by himself alone who made this 
surrender, or the king and the people. I do not, however, believe that the 
English would ever suffer the pontiff to depose their king and put another in his 
place.* ' Orator. 

160 JOHN MAJOR'S HISTORY [book iv. 

The king is Swynesheid [that is, * caput porci "] took the life of the king 
poisoned. j^y poison, in the following way. He gave the king to drink 

of a cup of ale that had been poisoned, and the king ordered 
the monk to drink of it the first. That is the wretched con- 
dition of great men — that they think or fear that every one 
wishes to deceive them. But, at the king'^s command, the 
monk, without a sign of fear, drank half of the contents of 
the cup, and the other half the king drank off, fearing no 
harm ; and thus did both perish by the same poison ^. The 
monk had been moved to this deed for the relief of his country *. 
The king had been heard to say again and again as he sat at 
meat that the loaf which used to be sold for a penny should 
soon come to cost twenty shiUings. The monk, who felt that 
such a thing would be very disastrous to the common weal, 
thought it would be a meritorious act to take the life of the 
king ; but before he would commit the deed he went to his 
abbot, and by the abbot's counsel it was that he administered 
the poisoned draught. He sought absolution, however, of the 
abbot before the act. For the monk wlio showed in this 
fashion his love for his country five monks every day make 
special prayer, nor will they desist thus to pray till the day of 

In this part of my narration I follow Caxton the English 
chronicler to the letter, merely translating the language used 
of us Britons into Latin ^. Here I seem to be brought face to 

1 John died at Newark, October 19, 1216 — * of a fever inflamed by a glutton- 
ous debauch* (Green, ed. 1875, p. 126); 'worn out in mind and body ' (Gar- 
diner, vol. i. p. 185) ; * fell ill at Swineshead abbey, in Lincolnshire, whether 
of poison, as some say, or, as others think, of grief and rage at his loss* i.e. 
*of his baggage and treasure* (York Powell and Mackay, p. 130); 'perhaps 
poisoned* (J. Franck Bright, vol. i. p. 140). 

3 Ad banc provinciam subeundam. 

' The following is the story, told by Caxton (fol. Ixxxvii.), upon which Major 
bases his own narrative and his criticisms : — * And so it befell that he [king John] 
wolde haue gone to Nicholl, and as he went thyderwarde he came by y* abbey 
of Swynestede, and there he abode two dayes. And as he sate at meet he asked 
a monke of the hous how moche a lofe was worth y* was set before hym vpon 
the table. And the monke sayd that the lofe was worth but an halfpeny. O 
said the kyng tho, here is grete chepe of brcde. Now quod the kynge, and 
I may lyue, suche a lofe shall be worth .xx. shyllynges or half a yere be gone. 
And whan he had sayd these wordes, moche he thought and oft he syghed, 
and toke and ete of the breed and sayd, by God y* wordes that I haue spoken 


face with a mass of follies. A great wickedness it was in this The monk's a 
monk, at no bidding but his own, to kill a king ; for, grant ** ^^^""^ * 
it that the commonwealth may take some profit by the death 
of kings, yet on no consideration can it be allowed to a private 
person, and in signal measure to a monk, to kill them. Some- 
thing vulpine too there was in the absolution granted by the 
abbot before the deed. And besides, that celebration of masses 
seems a piece of madness, as if this sinful monk had therein 
acted the part of a good man. The probability is that the 
abbot and the religious approved the action of the monk, and 
by doing so took away from him the very chance of a true 
repentance ; and if he died impenitent, he is damned. Thus 
then was John, king of the English, after a reign of fourteen 
years and five months ^, slain by a wicked monk. I shall now 
leave Lewis, the son of Philip, dwelling among the English, 
that I may bring to an end the narrative of the things that 
meanwhile had come to pass in Scotland. 

it shall be soth. The monke that stode before y« kynge was for these wordes 
full sory in his herte, and thought rather he wolde himselfe suffre deth, and 
thought how he myght ordeyn therfore some maner remedy. And the monke 
anone went to his abbot, and was shryuen of hym, and tolde the abbot all 
that the kynge had sayd, and prayed his abbot for to assoyle him, for he wold 
gyue the kynge suche a drynke that all Englonde sholde be glad therof and 
ioy full. Than went the monke in to a gardeyn and founde a grete tode 
therin, and toke her vp and put her in a cuppe, and prycked the tode through 
with a broche many lymes tyl that the venym came out on euery syde in the 
cuppe, and then toke the cuppe and fylled it with good ale, and brought it 
before the kynge and knelynge sayd : Syr, quod he, wassayle, for neuer the 
dayes of your lyf dranke ye of so good a cuppe. Begyn monke, quod the 
kynge. And the monke dranke a grete draught, and after toke the kynge the 
cuppe, and the kyng also dranke a grete draught and set downe the cup. The 
monke anone ryght went in to the farmery and there dyed anone, on whose soule 
God haue mercy Amen. And .v. monkes synge for bis soule specyally, and 
shall whyles the abbey standeth. The kyng arose up anone full euyl at ease, 
and commaunded to remeve the table, and asked after the monke. And men 
tolde hym that he was deed, and that his wombe was broken in sonder. Whan 
the kynge herde this, he commaunded to truss, but it was all for nought, for his 
bely began to swell of the drynke that he had dronken, and within two dayes he 
dyed, on y« morowe after saynt Lukes daye.' 

* Major is mistaken in what he says of the length of King John's reign. John 
reigned from 1199 to 1216 ; and Caxton is on this point quite right. 


162 JOHN MAJOR^S HISTORY [book iv. 

CHAP. IV.— Of Malcolm, grandson of David, king of the ScoU, 
and all that he did, and how he never entered the married state. 

oim. On the death of that David who had, with excellent wisdom, 

held rule over the Scots, his grandson, Malcolm, in the four- 
teenth year of his age, was crowned king. In the first year of 
his reign, Sumerled, chieftain of Argyll, and his grandson 
rose against the king ; but the agents of Henry were able to 
lish Henry. aUay the rebellion of those grandsons. English Henry mean- 
while, the son of the empress, and cousin to Malcolm the Scot, 
showed secretly a strong inclination to friendship with him and 
his, and recovered at the hand of this youth and his governors 
humber- ^^^^ territory of Northumberland which the kings of the Scots 
becomes had for a long time held ^ ; Cumberland and Huntingdon he 
ishking. left to the Scots. But thereby this young Malcolm roused 
against himself the displeasure of the Scottish nobles ; for they 
said that he was too friendly with the English king, and that 
he had no right thus to attenuate the land over which he was 
set to rule, without the consent of its leading men. And thus 
it came about that in a national council ^ at Perth the earl of 
Stratheme and five other earls conspired to take possession of 
the king^s person, not with intent to harm him, but for the 
better preservation of the kingdom during his youth. But the 
king got news of this design and made his escape. 

It was about this time that Galloway rose against the king ; 
but in one year he so fully quelled this insurrection, that the 
Galloway chieftain, one Angus, leaving his son as hostage with 
IS becomes the king, renounced the world, became a canon in the monastery 
^^ of the Holy Rood at Edinburgh, and in the rule of Augustine 

ended his days in peace. But the king led a great army 
against the men of Moray — they had long been disturbers of 
the kingdom with their harrying and plundering. He 
destroyed them to a man, and put in their place others of a 
peaceful temper. About that time Sumerled, chieftain of 

* Cf. Celtic Scotland^yoV i. p. 471, VLXid Scotland under her Early JCitigSy vol. i. 

p. 353- 

2 * congregatione publica '. Cf. Mr. Innes's Lectures on Scotch Legal Anti- 

quiiies, 1872, p. 99. 


Argyll, got together from Ireland and the other islands a large 
army, to make war against the king, and a battle took place at 
Renfrew, when the chieftain was slain by a few men on the 
king^s side. 

The king had meanwhile reached the years of manhood, 
and the wise men about him counselled him to take to 
himself a wife; but to them he would not consent, saying 
always that he had vowed himself to virginity ; and this vow 
he observed to the end of his days. Now his observance of 
this vow might well have entitled him to be reckoned among 
the foolish virgins ^ had it been, for instance, a likely thing 
that his unmarried state would bring on a civil war or other The Scot dies 
great disaster for his country ; but seeing that he was not u°^Yto bian 
without adult brothers to succeed to him, he did right to 
observe his vow, once he had made it, because no reason for 
the breaking of the vow appeared. He ended his days at 
Jedburgh after a reign of twelve years; but his body was 
carried to Dunfermline, the centre almost of the kingdom, and 
there honourably buried. There from of old to the present 
the kings of the Scots have their tombs. Behold how profit- 
able a thing it is to be descended of chaste and pious ancestors ! 
The great-grandsire of this man and the mother of his grand- The offspring 
father were very pious persons, his grandfather was filled with Arsons ^are li 
devotion to God, and Henry, his father, held before him the ]? (o^^^ '»* 

' .1 . their steps. 

pattern and likeness of his grandfather to follow after it. 

CHAP. V. — Of William, king of the Scots , his captivity and his 
ransom ; of the lavish building of monasteries, and other matters that 
came to pass in his time, 

Malcolm the Maiden was succeeded by William, who was wiUiam 

crowned in the year of our Lord one thousand one hundred ^e^^ne° 

and sixty-five. He did homage to Henry of England for the 

lands which he held in England ; and by the advice of the 

English king, contrary to the wish of the Scots, he passed into 

France ; but Northumberland was restored to him. In the Northumber- 
land is re- 

^ fatuonim virginum. 



[book IV. 

William is 

Revolt and 
cruelty of 

year of our Lord eleven hundred and seventy-four there sprang 
up a quarrel between Henry of England and William the 
Scot; for William had inflicted a great defeat upon the 
northern English, and had thereafter returned in peace to his 
own people. This action of his I condemn ; for when he had 
recovered his own property without recourse to arms, he ought 
not to have entered upon a war. And yet, not satisfied even 
now, a second time he entered England with a large army, and 
gave all to plunder and pillage; but while his army was 
scattered for plunder, the king incautiously remained behind 
with a small guard ; so that the English surrounded him, took 
him captive without the shedding of a drop of blood, and 
carried him to king Henry the elder. It was because the 
English king had caused his son to be crowned — and, from the 
hatred that he bore to Saint Thomas, by the bishop of York ^ — 
the one of them was called the Elder, the other the Younger ; 
and the elder Henry sent William to Normandy to be safe- 
guarded in the castle of Falaise. But David of Huntingdon, 
who had stayed behind in England, then passed into Scotland, 
and governed the country in the absence of his brother William. 
In the following year, however, the Scots sent an embassy to 
Henry of England to treat concerning a ransom for their king ; 
and this end they gained by promising that the Scots would no 
longer engage in war against him, and in security therefor they 
make over to him the four strongest fortresses in the kingdom : 
Berwick, to wit, Roxburgh, Maidens'* Castle^ and Stirling; and 
on these terms William returned to the Scots. 

In the same year the rest of the Scots were attacked by one 
Gilbert, son of Fergus of Galloway, who cut out the tongue 
and both the eyes of his own brother, when this man refused 
to take part in his wicked designs. Against this Gilbert 
William marches with a large body of soldiers; and when 
Gilbert saw that he could make no stand, he betook him as a 
suppliant to the king, imploring his forgiveness, and obtaining 
it. Further, in the year eleven hundred and seventy-six, 

* Though the papal brief forbidding the coronation had been forced upon the 
archbishop on the previous day, Henry the Third was crowned by archbishop 
K^oger, June 14, 1170. 

' Cf. p. 15, note ^. 


William founded the monastery of Arbroath ^, a community, I Building of 
say, second in wealth to none in Scotland, and indeed I know Arbroath, 
not if there be one more richly endowed in all Britain; 
and David of Huntingdon founded the monastery of Lin- Lindores. 
dores. This is that David of whom mention is made in a Huilntii^don. 
book well known among the French, which is entitled * concern- 
ing the sons of three kings ^ — to wit, of France, England, and 
Scotland — and a similar book we have in our own vernacular 
tongue 2. Countess Ada, king William'*s mother, founded at 
Haddington a convent, fair and well-endowed, for nuns of the 
order of Saint Bernard*. There was something marvellous 
in the eagerness of this family to build monasteries, yet 
ever with the result of damage to the royal revenues. The lavish 
The revenues of the kings of the Scots are derived chiefly ^^ ro^ 
from their own property in land, and thus they have P*^™®°y °P 

*■,•,•' , ,*' monasteries u 

been from the beginning. It is not only becoming, but condemned. 

even necessary, that a king should have sufficient private 

means, for thus will he not be under the necessity of burdening 

the common people with tolls and taxes. And inasmuch 

as they on no account refrain from the imposition of taxes, 

it is highly imprudent to diminish the royal revenues; and 

yet men of our own nation, and courtiers most of all, are 

found to extol to the skies those kings who portion out the 

royal revenues among their friends. Such men are led astray 

by a blind and partial affection, to the neglect of the common 

weal. Here I will dare to say that the three estates of the 

1 Dedicated to Becket. The date of the foundation is 1 1 78. See Re^strum 
dt Abtrbrothoc^ p. xi. 

3 Orig. * et non differunt [F. • differentem *] ab hoc in nostra lingua vemacula 
librum habemus.' Brunet (ed. 1862, vol. iii. col. 1 126, s.v, livre) quotes five 
editions of this work in French, of which the first four were printed at Lyons — 
in 1 501, 1503, 1504, 1508— and the fifth at Paris, undated, but about 1530. 
The National Library of Paris possesses six MSS. of the work ; and a MS. 
catalogue of MSS. in the same library attributes the work to Charles Aubert, who 
wrote also a * Histoire d'Olivier de Castille '. There seems to be no trace of 
the edition * in nostra lingua vemacula ' except in Major, and it is possibly one 
of many books now lost that were printed by Walter Chepman in the early 
years of the sixteenth century. 

5 The Convent of Haddington was founded in 1 170. * The lands commonly 
called the Nunland, now called Huntington, belonged likewise to the nuns of 
this place. '— Spotiswood's Account of the Keligious Houses that were in Scotland 
at the tinu of the Reformation (in Keith's Scottish Bishops^ ed. 1824, p. 462). 



[book IV. 

A law that 
would be profit- 
able to the 
kingdom in the 

/V rebel Wild 
Scot is hanged. 

Richard the 

A rising in 

realm ought to be called on to give sanction to a law forbidding 
the king to make a grant in perpetuity of the royal lands to 
any one, and thus to alienate them from the royal treasury, 
without the assent of the three estates ; and if they should 
make lavish alienation of those lands, then might the next 
king recover them with interest. To this law the king ought 
to give his consent. By this means no one will be able to put 
it down to avarice that he makes no grant of lands. Servants 
— for wages paid, for offices conferred, for heiresses (where the 
right of marriages remains in his hands) — he will have in 

About this time, a certain Wild Scot of Ross, named Mac- 
william, otherwise called Donald Bane, rebelled against the 
king, and stirred up a large part of the neighbouring country. 
Against him the king and his brother brought an army ; but 
while the king was making a halt at Inverness, some of his 
nobles, who had gone on before him with a light-armed troop, 
found the rebel with a small following in a moor which is 
called Makardy \ They put him to death, with fifty of his 
fellows, and brought his head to the king, who caused the same 
to be hung up to public view. 

Further, after the death of the elder Henry — for the reign 
of the younger Henry is not worthy to be reckoned — Richard 
became king of the English. He made restitution to the 
king of the Scots of those fortalices which he had held in 
security for the captivity of William, and restored likewise 
the hostages and the ten thousand pounds for which they had 
put themselves under obligation to his father. He also made 
null and void all those obligations by which William, when he 
was a prisoner, had bound himself; demanding, however, that 
the kings of the Scots should do him homage, mediate or 
immediate, for the lands which they possessed in England. All 
this Richard did in the first year of his reign. In the same 
year king William gave the earidom of Huntingdon to his 
brother David in possession. 

About this time, after tlie death of that Gilbert, son of 

^ *The Moor of Mamgarvy.' — E. W. Robertson's Scotland under her Early 
JCtngSy vol. L p. 393. 


Fergus, who had put out the eyes of his brother ^, there rose in 
his place a man of Galloway, who invaded the rest of the Scots. 
Against him marched Rotholand ^ on the part of the king, and Rothoiaod. 
defeated him, and afterwards slew besides another rebel of 
Galloway, by name Gelecolne \ Rotholand, however, lost his 
brother in that battle. In reward of the loyal service done 
him by this Rotholand, king William bestowed upon him in 
perpetuity Galloway and the land of Carrick. Meanwhile the 
English king gave to the Scottish king in marriage Emergarda, Emergarda. 
his own kinswoman, and daughter of the earl of Beaumont ; 
and David of Huntingdon, brother of the king of Scots, took 
to wife a daughter of the earl of Chester. 

CHAP. VI.— 0/ William the Scot and Alexander, Williarns son, 
and of a miracle done by William ; of the war with John of England, 
and the peace that was made with the same, and the treaty by the swear- 
ing of the oath of fealty. 

After the return of English Richard from his attempt to The love and 
recover Jfldaea, and when he was, by reason of his captivity, J^^I^n^Richarc 
put into great straits for money, William the Scot gave him in ^S^*^^^^ " 
free gift two thousand marks ; wherefore the love in which Scot. 
either held the other was no less than that of David and 
Jonathan ; nor do we read anywhere of a peace more truly 
maintained between Scots and English than in their day. So 
true it is that a harmonious movement in the spheres above finds 
a tranquil and melodious echo in the spheres below. William 
also swears fealty to John the English king for the lands that 
he held in England, safeguarding only the honour and liberties 
of the kingdom of the Scots. In the same year the Scottish 
nobles took the oath of fidelity to Alexander, son of William, 
then a child three years of age. At that time the earl of the Wicked act 
Orkney Islands * put out the eyes of the bishop of Caithness and of Orkn^.°* 
cut out his tongue. The king pursued the earl with a large 
force, but the latter fled ever from one place of hiding to 

1 i.e. Uchtred. E. W. Robertson {u.s.) vol. i. p. 380. 

2 i.g. Roland. Id. vol. i. pp. 387, 390, 392. 
^ i.e. Gillecolum. Id. vol. i. p. 387. 

* i.e. Harald MacMadach. 

168 JOHN MAJOR^S HISTORY [book iv. 

another; and it is no wonder: these islands are situated 
beyond the Scots boundaries. But at length the king yielded 
to the prayers of his nobles, and gmnted his pardon for this 
The remission crime on the payment by the earl of a large sum of money. I 
mentis con- consider this penalty to be insufficient for an injury so atro- 
demned. cious ; for the greater — the more uncommon — the nature of a 

crime, so much the deeper should be the branding of it, that 
warning may thereby be given to those who come after. Our 
chroniclers relate further that in the year of the redemption of 
A miracle done the world One thousand two hundred and six, William, in the 
y 1 lam. presence of many persons, cured a youth who was suffering 
from a grievous malady. Two years after this, Alan of Gallo- 
way, son of Rotholand, took to wife Margaret, daughter to 
David, earl of Huntingdon. During the two years that 
followed, the fearful seeds of war were sown broadcast between 
the Scots and £nglish. Their kings raised each of them a 
large army, determined to commit their cause to the fortune 
of war; and when they were drawing always nearer to one 
another, some men of sense, both Scots and English, take up 
the matter, and try by the counsels of prudence and modera- 
tion to mitigate the angry feelings of their kings, and so 
arrange the quarrel without bloodshed. For they knew that 
the issue of war is ever doubtful, and best of all they knew 
that among those who should lose their lives in the inevitable 
struggle would be their dearest friends. For does not the 
conqueror in battle also suffer loss of men, or it may be of 
property ? The commanders of hostile armies, when the first 
movement of offence is still to make, when both sides are 
unbroken, are wont to listen to reason. Between these enemies 
accordingly peace was made, on this settlement : that William 
should give in marriage his two daughters, Margaret and Isa- 
bella, to Henry and Richard, the two sons of John; but a 
short time hereafter a quarrel sprang up between John and his 
nobles, of which the result was that these marriages were not 
A new law for concluded. It was further determined that for the future the 
ledgmentofan kings of the Scots should not in their own person do homage 

thfSlin" Sf an ^^^ *'^^ '^"^® ^^^^ ^'^^T ^^^^ ^" England, inasmuch as the Scobi 

oath of fidelity, asserted that it was not fitting for their kings to take the oath 

of fidelity to a superior ; but that the eldest sons of the kings 



should do so. Alexander, son of William, accordingly took 
the oath of fidelity in London to John the English king, and 
was by John invested with the insignia of knighthood, and 
honourably sent back to Scotland. 

In the selfsame year there happened a heavy flood, when in 
Scotland the swelling rivers broke from their customed channels, 
and when, notably in Perth, the Tay broke down the great 
bridge of Saint John, and carried away many houses ; so great 
was the flood that William the king, David his brother, and 
Alexander, scarce made good their escape in a boat. In one What may be 
place there may be a larger amount of snow than in another, fl(^^"^ ° 
and likewise a breaking forth of the springs whence rivers 
have their source, and thus comes a melting of the snow when 
one looks not for it, and a sudden increase of the rivers takes 
place. This may proceed from the stars and planets being at 
the time in the moist signs, so that the floodgates may be un- 
barred in this region and not in that. 

In this year John of England took possession of a large part 
of Ireland, and subdued the rebels of Wales. In the following 
year king William sent an army into Ross against Gothred 
Makwilliam. Gothred was at length taken, through the Gothred's 
treachery of his own people, and came half-dead into the hands P^****""^"*- 
of justice ; for, when he was taken, he refused both meat and 
drink; but he was beheaded, and justly ; for he who against 
all justice desired to be exalted and to be made a king, or the 
equal of a king, deserved that his power should wane and that 
he should be brought low. He who pulls down the powerful 
from their seats and exalts the humble brings the haughty 
and ambitious man to ruin. In the year twelve hundred and 
fourteen, William king of the Scots was taken with a grievous 
sickness, and fell asleep in the Lord in the seventy-fourth year 
of his age, and of his reign the forty-ninth. He was honour- 
ably buried in the monastery of Arbroath, which he himself 
had built ^. 

^ It is curious that Major in his account of William's reign does not refer to 
the Council of Northampton (1176) where the archbishop of York claims 
Scotland as part of his province. The Scots appealed to the Pope, who forbade 
the archbishop to press his claim. See Scotland under her Eariy Kings^ vol. i. 

PP- 378, 379. 



[book IV. 

the Scot. 

John of 

A mythical 
story of an 

CHAP. VII. — Of Atexander, son of fVillianif and his wars nith 
John of England. Of the interdict on Scotland, and when such a thing 
is to he feared. 

After the death of William, Alexander the Second was in- 
vested with the regal insignia; and not long thereafter the 
general discontent with John of England, of which mention 
has before l)een made, grew stronger. About two years before 
the death of William, there had appeared a simple fellow who 
went on asserting that John, king of England, was the in- 
carnate devil. Him the king first of all threw into prison, and 
thereafter hanged. As to this matter our chroniclers report 
that, moved thereto by the story told by this simple fellow, 
men began to examine with more particularity the pedigree of 
the king of England ; when Hwas found that one of his pre- 
decessors, Geoffrey, earl of Anjou, when he wished to enter the 
married state, pursued a fair woman with a view to marriage, 
and without consideration of the race to which she might 
belong, when there arrived suddenly upon the scene an un- 
known stranger, a woman of singular beauty, who refused to 
hear mass; but the king, inasmuch as he had a goodly ofi*- 
spring by her, for a long time concealed the matter as best 
he could ; but at length he caused her to be held in church 
by four soldiers, when at the elevation of the body of Christ 
she vanished from the sight of all in a cloud of smoke and 
sulphur, and never did she reappear. Of this woman, then, 
they affirm that the Henry who caused the murder of the 
Blessed Thomas, and those other kings of England, were bom ^. 
I look upon this story as the invention, pure and simple, of 
some Scot who did not like the English ; but it commended 
itself to the Scots, and was no doubt carefully treasured by 
them. In matters themselves improbable, I am inclined to 
assent neither to my own countrymen as against the English ^ 

* The author of The Complaynt of Scotland (p. 133, ed. Leydcn) says that 
since the days of Hengist and Horsa the English kings have been usurpers : — 
*The maist part of thay tirran kings that hes succedit of that false blude hes becne 
borreaus to their predecessours. * 

^ Miss Norgate {England under the Angevin Kings, vol. i. p. 143) names as 


nor in similar case to Englishmen as against my own 

After this, Alexander the Scot, in the third year of his The deeds of 
reign, laid siege to Norham, and at a later date he subdued the 
whole of Northumberland. But I must marvel at the obscurity 
in which those chroniclers have left this matter, and their care- 
less treatment of it, seeing that they do not tell us how then 
the Scots came to lose those territories of theirs in England ; 
for, from what has just been said, the chroniclers next in date 
would seem to say that this strip of land was in the hands of 
the Scots, since Norham is the boundary to-day, and it is 
distant scarce a stone'*s throw from the Tweed \ But let us 
resume the narrative of events. When Alexander was returned 
to Scotland, John the Englishman invaded that country, gave 
to the flames Dunbar and Haddington, and, when he learned 
that Alexander had collected an army, made no delay to with- 
draw himself. But when John was once off, Alexander invaded 

the authority for this story Giraldus Cambrensis de Jnstructione Principum^ 
dist. iii. c. 27, and suggests that it may have arisen in the popular mind as some 
explanation of the career of Fulk the Black, son of Geoffrey Greygown. There 
is some difficulty in following the story as told by Major. He seems to speak 
of two women. Geoffrey earl of Anjou * fecit mulierem speciosam pro conjugio 
venari *. In the very next line we read of the appearance of *una spedosissima 
ignota ', who was not only in the habit of refusing to hear mass, but who had 
already borne goodly offspring to the king. Giraldus's story is quite simple : 
* There was a certain countess of Anjou of outstanding beauty, but of unknown 
origin, whom the count had married solely from the attractions of her person. 
She rarely went to church, and when she did go there, she showed little or 
nothing of a devout bearing. She would never stay to hear mass, but departed 
in haste immediately after the gospel. But at length, when this had been for 
some time observed, not only by the count, but by others, she was one day 
seized by four soldiers, in accordance with instructions from the count, in the 
very act of leaving the church at her customary hour. Tearing from their grasp 
the cloak by which she was being held, and leaving behind her two young sons 
whom she had been holding under the right fold of her garment, she caught up 
under her arm her two other little sons, who had been standing under the left 
fold, and in sight of all vanished through a high window of the church. And 
so it was that this woman, whose face was better than her faith, never more 
appeared, neither she nor her two children. King Richard would often quote 
this story, saying it was no wonder that, sprung from such a parentage as this, 
fathers and sons should never cease to quarrel one with another, nor yet brothers 
with brothers, for that he and his, who came from the devil, must needs return 
to the devil.* 
^ Berwick was taken by the English in 1482. 

172 JOHN MAJOR'S HISTORY [book iv. 

England, laid siege to Carlisle, a small city, but very strongly 
fortified, reduced the same, and then kept it in his own hands. 
From this it clearly follows that in the time of Alexander and 
John the boundary was the same as at this present. Further : 
when one faction of the English desired to have Lewis, son of 
Philip of France, for their king, Alexander the Scot goes to 
meet him at Dover, that he might there bid him welcome and 
help him to a peaceable accession, and, his errand done, 
returns without disturbance to his own country. 
Scotland placed It was about this time that Gualo, the legate apostolic, dis- 
under interdict, charged against Alexander the last weapon of the church, and 

placed the kingdom of the Scots under interdict, until repara- 
tion should be made for the losses inflicted on the English, 
and Carlisle, so lately wrested from them, restored into their 
hands. And Alexander, fearing perhaps more than he need 
have done the censures of the church, made restoration of 
Carlisle, and paid a vast sum of money to the legate for 
Excommunica- absolution. If his title to Carlisle had been just, he need not 
respects to be have feared the stricture of excomm unication. Several among his 
^Usle predecessors had held Carlisle, and I do not see how he had 

lost his right to the city ; and, however this may be, he ought, 
in an unjust or even a doubtful case, to have made his appeal 
against this sentence from the legate to his superiors. But 
perhaps you will object : that respect must be paid to a sen- 
tence passed by a spiritual pastor, even though it be unjust. 
The answer is no difficult one : If the sentence is unjust to the 
degree of being null, it is in no way to be dreaded ; if it is un- 
just, and yet in such a way that it is real excommunication, 
inasmuch as all the essentials of excommunication are to be 
found therein, then excommunication, though thus unjust, is to 
be dreaded ; unjust indeed in that it includes some circum- 
stances by which justice is violated, as, for instance, that the 
motive of the sentence is partiality to one side or dislike of the 
Excommunica- other, or something: of this sort. In the former case unjust 

tion is not to be ' . . . ° . . , •* . 

lightly inflicted, excommuiiication is no more excommunication than a corpse is 

a man. I may here observe in passing that not only in Britain, 
but in most parts of the world, men are disposed to accept 
ecclesiastical censures too easily. No man can be liable to 
excommunication, whether we regard the matter from the 


point of abstract law, or as a sentence inflicted by man, except 
for some mortal sin that he has committed ; and for contumacy 
only can this sentence be inflicted by man. * If he will not 
hear the church \ so speaks the Truth, * let him be as a heathen 
man and a publican."*^ Wherefore, on the opposite supposi- 
tion, if he have heard the church, why shall he be cast out, 
like a heathen, from the congregation of the faithful ? Whence 
it comes that we reckon a vast number of excommunicated 
persons who are in a state of grace. A sophistical excommuni- 
cation can harm no man in things spiritual, whether his body 
lie in holy ground or in a place unconsecrated ; nor is every 
truly excommunicated person damned after death, if he have 
taken all pains to get absolution. 

About this time Preaching Friars first came to Scotland ^. Preaching ;.> 

Friars in 

CHAP. VIII. — Of Henry ^ king of tJie English, and his son, and of the 

prophecy of Merlin about them. 

I NOW leave Alexander the Scot, and return to the English. John the Eng- 
When Jolm had met his death by poison, administered by the poisoned.*^ 
hand of a foolish monk, and Lewis the son of Philip had been Lewis, son of 
called to the throne by the English, that party among the ™hT'tiiSl^i"^ 
English, which had favoured the cause of John, now that he was 
deceased hailed Henry, his nine-years-old son, as king. And Henry is set up 
about this time Gualo, who had been appointed Roman legate, °°PP*^^ *"• 
excommunicated Lewis and all who held with him ; and by 
this means a large number of the English were turned away 
from Lewis, and the strength of his following was much 
reduced. On this account it began to be mooted whether he 
should not return to France ; and at length, with a gift of 
money for the charges of his journey amounting to one thou- 
sand pounds sterling, peacefully, and attended by a large 
company of nobles, he reached the sea. Henry the Third 
accordingly reigned in England in peace after the death of 
John, and he took to wife Eleanor, daughter of the count of 
Provence. Thereafter, in the forty-third year of his reign, 

1 St. Matt, xviii. 17. 

' According to Spotiswood, P> 44^1 their first house was at Edinburgh, founded 
in 1230 on the site of what is now Blackfriars Street. 

174 JOHN MAJOR^S HISTORY [book iv. 

Henry and the chief men of his kingdom passed some law at 
Oxford — what this law was I have not discovered ^— -and to the 
observance thereof the king as well as the nobles bound them- 
selves by a solemn oath. But the king, at the instance of his 
firstborn son Edward, and of Richard his brother, earl of 
Cornwall, sent to Rome to obtain a release from the oath by 
which he had bound himself. On this account a war began 
between the king and his nobles, and in a battle fought at 
Lewes in the forty-eighth year of his reign, the king, as well 
as the foresaid Edward and Richard, was taken prisoner. 

=n But Edward, the king'^s son, broke out of prison and escaped. 
Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, had him afterwards in 
charge at Hertford, and he then made his way to the princes 
of the Marches, from whom he had a kind reception. Three 
months after this, that is, in August, Edward defeated Simon 
de Montfort at Kenilworth, and the partisans of the said 
Simon, who in that battle lost his life, were banished from the 
kingdom. But, following the counsel of Othobona, the legate, 
and the nobles, they were reinstated in their lands from which 
they had been expelled; and thus the whole kingdom was 
again at peace. Afterward, in the fifty-fifth year of Henry'^s 

o reign, some English nobles went to the Holy Land : Edward 
to wit, brother ^ of the king, John Vessi, Thomas Clare, Roger 
Clifford, Othes Graunston, Robert Bruce, John Verdon. In 
that same year died the king — the year of the redemption of 
the world twelve hundred and forty-two. 

In the days of this king, Alexander Hales, an Englishman 
of the Minorite order, the teacher in theology of the Blessed 
Bonaventure and Saint Thomas Aquinas, wrote a work, in four 
divisions, of great merit ; he was advanced in years, so they say, 
before he put on the habit of the Minorites, and of that order 
he was the first theological doctor. He was buried in the 
convent of the Minorites at Paris, and died in the year of our 
Lord one thousand two hundred and fifty ^. 

* *The Provisions of Oxford ', passed in 1258. 

^ For * brother ' read * son *. 

3 Alexander Hales became a Franciscan in 1228 and died in 1245. See 
Monumetita Franciscana (ed. Brewer), pp. 542, 627. St. Francis was afraid of 
the introduction of a love of learning into his Order, and on that account— so it 
is said — he was not well pleased at the accession of this * irrefragable * doctor. 


Of this Henry Merlin the seer is said to have sung, when he 
foretold that there would go forth from Winchester, in the year 
one thousand two hundred and seventy, an English king, who 
should be a man of truth -speaking lips and sanctity of life, 
who likewise should be at peace for the greater part of his 
reign. All which they expound of this Henry, who built at 
London the monastery of Saint Peter. Simon de Montfort, of 
whom I have spoken, was bom in France. One part of the 
prediction, however, is interpreted of Edward the son of Henry ^. 

CHAP. IX. — Of Edward, son of Henry the Englishman, his war 
with the Welsh and his victory over them ; likewise of the expulsion of 
the Jews. 

Edward, who succeeded his father Henry, was a man most Edward, 
ambitious of warlike renown. His accession was welcomed 
with rejoicing by all the English. Edward invaded Wales, 
and took prisoner the prince of that country, one Llewellyn ^, Llewellyn, 
whom he kept always near him. He forced this man to swear 
fealty to himself, and twice each year to attend the parliament 
at London. But when Llewellyn began to enjoy again the 
liberty that he for a time had lost, he refused obedience to 
Edward. Therefore, when a second time he had been con- 
quered by Edward, he came as a suppliant, begged forgiveness, 
and obtained it, but on this understanding: that if in the 
time to come he should ever fall away, he should be led to 
death. Not many days thereafter this very Llewellyn and his The punish- 
brother David, who had shown himself most friendly disposed the Welshman, 
towards Edward, rebel against Edward and his men ; but in 
the battle that followed Llewellyn perished. After his death 
his brother David summons a parliament of Wales at Denbigh ; 
but Edward takes him prisoner, and slays and quarters him at 
London. Then, at length, all the Welsh submit to Edward. The subjection 
The Welsh, that is, the Britons, had been already conquered 
by Henry the son of the empress, but not so that they feared 
to rebel, and indeed they enjoyed some measure of freedom ; 

* Edward the First became king in 1272. 
- Orig. and F. * Lewilinum *. 

176 JOHN MAJOR^S HISTORY [book iv. 

but under Edward they were forced to make an absolute sub- 
mission. When he had thus got the Welsh under his hand, 
Edward passed over into Gascony, and abode there for a 
space of three years. 

On his return to England he found that certain men had in 
his absence been unfaithful in the administration of justice, 
and on them he inflicted pmiishment according to the desert 
of each. And since a great complaint was raised, and justly 
raised, about the Jews, that, through their usurious and fraudu- 
lent dealing, they drained popr people of all they possessed, he 
The Jews are drove out of the kingdom all Hebrews — who are wont to make 
^ * their profit out of Christians, much as mice will do out of a 

find of clean wheat — and in gratitude for their deliverance 
every one of the cpmmon people paid to the king one penny 
out of every fifteen. Hence is plain that kings in their king- 
doms, and in each aristocratic polity its leading men, would do 
well to drive from their midst those obstinate Hebrews, if thev 
would escape the necessity of imposing heavy taxes. This 
plague of usury ^ brings in its train all kinds of mischief on 
the body politic. First of all: it gives to the prodigal an 
opportunity of prodigality ; to one of this sort the greatest 
blessing is that he should not be able to lay his hand on 
money. Secondly, by slow degrees and all unobser\'ed these 
lenders lay up for themselves a vast amount of money. Thirdly 
— and this is worst of all — God is provoked by their sin of 
usury, no less than by their obstinate observance of the cere- 
monial parts of the Mosaic law, which in these respects is 
obsolete. Now, for any sins that meet not with their due 
punishment from the magistrate, and by which the divine 
goodness is provoked, God sends His scourge upon a state. 
So much is plain from the Second Book of the Kings, where 
we read that the people was sorely afflicted for the sins of 
David *. I praise, therefore, the expulsion from the kingdom 

* Cf. on Major's opinion of usury his In Quartum, ed. 1521, fol. cviii. 
On the question of usury in the middle ages Jourdain ( Excursions historiques ct 
philosophiques h trovers le moyen Age — *M^moire sur les commencements de 
Teconomie politique dans les ecoles du moyen dge') and the Rev. William 
Cunningham, in his Christian Opinion on Usury with special refereme to 
England^ 1884, may be consulted. *** 2 Sam. xxiv. 15-17. 


of the Jews, for, by the introduction of the undesirable con- 
ditions of which I have spoken, they place a stumbling-block 
in the way of many who are weak in the faith; just as the How harlots 
chastity of other women must run some risk in the neighbour- ^""*^ '"*"'*• 
hood of public women of ill renown and a luxurious mode of 

CHAP. X. — Of the monasteries that were founded by the Earl of 
Fife, and something hy the way about the seclusion of nuns and their 
rule of life ; of the marriage of King Alexander the Second, his life 
and praiseworthy death, and of the destruction by fire of men and towns 
in Scotland. 

Ix the time of that Alexander the Scot who, in obedience to Monasteries 
ecclesiastical censures, restored Carlisle to the English king, ^o""^«^- 
Malcolm earl of Fife founded a pair of monasteries ^ : one, 
for men, at Culross ; the other, for women, at that northern 
Berwick -, in which parish I was bom. But as I happen here 
upon religious women, it will not be amiss to say one or two 
things. Wherever there is a foundation for religious women, Seclusion 
these ought to be shut up in the building devoted to their °^"""^' 
common life, so that they should not have the power of going 
beyond its walls, or of association with men. Such is the custom 
at Poissi^, and among religious women who lead a life con- 
formable to their calling. For that sex is more thoughtless 
than the other — has a greater proclivity to intemperance of 
conduct ; wherefore, when they have an opportunity of associa- 
tion with men, they easily violate their vow of chastity, and 
only rarely and with the greatest difficulty observe it. So that 
they ought to be kept apart from men, as it were, by a red-hot 

^ * Bina monasteria * ; the expression is used more generally, I think, of the 
double monastery, with one part for men and another for women, according to 
Celtic custom. 

^ The charters printed in the Carte de Northbgrwic, Bann. Club, 1847, show 
that this house was founded at least two generations earlier. The father and 
grandfather of earl Malcolm were among its benefactors. 

^ * Poisiacum * — in Roman times * Pisciacum ' — on the Seine, in the He de 
France. Poissi was the birthplace of Saint Louis ; it was also the scene of the 
well-known Conference of 1 56 1. It possessed several religious houses, among 
them a Dominican convent of nuns. 


178 JOHN MAJOR^S HISTORY [book iv. 

Proof of the line. To establish what I assert, I make use of this argument : 
When a woman has taken the vow of chastity, she has made 
herself liable to every obligation without whose observance 
the vow of chastity cannot be kept. But it is a fact that 
women who find themselves now and again in the company of 
men frequently give way before the temptation to which they 
are exposed ; and if there are among them a few who do not 
lose their chastity, yet by far the most of them run a risk of 
doing so ; and it is always for the safety of the many that 
precautions must be taken. Besides : it does no harm to that 
small number whose chastity is not in peril from association 
with men that they should be kept in restraint, while to much 
the greater number it does harm that they should not be so 
kept ; therefore, for the safety of their sisters, it behoves the 
stronger to make no opposition to a strict seclusion. And if 
there are near kindred of the nuns, who are inclined to resist 
seclusion on their account, such show themselves friends of the 
body but not of the soul. For they know that women kept in 
strict seclusion live more religiously than if tliey are allowed to 
go about among men. Although this seclusion may be at 
first a hard and indeed a sad experience for women who give 
themselves in mature years to a religious life, yet for one 
accustomed to good habits of life, for one whose natural ten- 
dency is towards what is right, it will not be difficult ; and 
young girls on their admission will have no distaste to the 
straitness of this rule if they have their virginity at heart; 
and many women would enter these walls devoted to the 
common life with a more fervent piety, inasmuch as the female 
sex with all due instruction, and separate from men, is wont 
to walk the road of a more ardent devotion — that sex of which 
the church speaks thus ; ' Make intercession for the devout 
female sex "* ^ — in her prayer to the Virgin Mother of God. And 
in conclusion I would say that both superiors and women are 
bound, at the least by every consideration of what is fitting, to 

^ * Ora pro populo, interveni pro clero, intercede pro devoto femineo scxu * — 
from the Antiphon of Vespers and Lauds for Feasts of B.V.M. The clause is 
sometimes understood as a prayer for nuns, i.e. for women devoted to religion, — 
(thus Lord Bute, in his translation of the Breviary, renders it * make intercession 
for all women vowed to God *) — but Major evidently understands devoutness 
as a characteristic of the sex. Cf. his expressions in In Quartttm^ 2d qu. of the 
33d distinction. 



give effectual assent to this ordinance and adopt it as their 
own. But whether they should be bound in sucli fashion that 
the breach of the ordinance should be reckoned a sin, and its 
observance a thing of absolute obligation — this must wise men 
carefully consider ; for the affirmative will perhaps be found 
the truer answer, as the argument which I have just made use 
of seems indeed to suggest. And certain it is that this is the 
«afer course. 

But perchance you will object, that on their entrance on this An objection, 
life they did not intend to bind themselves to this ; and that 
no one, unless of liis own free will, can be bound to an obliga- 
tion that concerns himself alone: Igitur. The objection is The answer, 
a frivolous one, and can be repelled with ease. For under thitf 
rule a vow is made of chastity, obedience, and poverty. Now, 
it is not enough to live, so far as mere existence is concerned, 
in the house, if all the essentials of its rule are to be infringed ; 
AS if forsooth the mere entrance to such a house and living 
there could be pleaded as an excuse for the stain of sin. Far 
better would it be that women and men should marry in the 
Lord, than that they became members of a community of evil- 
livers, of whose reformation no near hope can be discerned. 
To call the Psalmist as my witness ; * With the froward thou 
wilt show thyself froward "* ^. I have not written what I have 
now put down because I think these nuns to be of worse dis- 
position than the rest of women who do not live in seclusion, 
for what I say has application to all ; but here I would give 
this kindly counsel by the way to the sisters whose lives are 
spent in my old neighbourhood ^. 

But to return to our historical narrative. Alexander took The wife of 
to wife the sister of English Henry in the year twelve hundred Alexander, 
and twenty. About two years thereafter the bishop of Caith- A bishop is 
ness, when he was making demand of the tithes and church "™*' 
dues from his own people, was by them burnt to death in his 
own kitchen. And inasmuch as John, earl of Caithness, the 
bishop'*s neighbour, had failed to come to the help of the latter 

' Ps. xviii. 26. In the Vulgate Ps. xvii. 27 : * Cum perverse perverteris '. 

* There is no record of any prioress by name between 1477 and 1523. This 
renders it not unlikely that there had been some trouble in the community at the 
time when Major knew it best ; and his delicacy in avoiding direct reference to 
this incident is noteworthy. 

180 JOHN MAJOR'S HISTORY [book iv. 

when he prayed him to do so, Alexander took from him a large 

part of his earldom, and much of his moveable property he 

bestowed upon the church ; last of all was this earl too slain 

by his own people in the seventh year after the perpetration of 

his crime. In the third year after his marriage, Alexander 

was moved by his devotion to Saint Thomas to make a journey 

to Canterbury, and when he had tarried some time with English 

Henry, and treated with him concerning the peace of their 

kingdoms, he returned in safety to his own people. 

Gilloschop. Fourteen years afterward a certain Scot, by name Gilloschop^, 

invaded Moray, and set fire to Inverness ; him the earl of 

Buchan, guardian and justiciar of Scotland, put to death, and 

with him two of his sons. Their heads he sent to Alexander. 

Balmerjno. Two years after this the convent of Balmerino was founded by 

Alexander and his mother, Emergarda, in honour of Saint 

Edward ; and in the following year Alexander founded the 

Death of Alan monastery of Pluscardin. In the same year died, at Dundrennan, 

o Galloway. ^1^^^ gon of Rotholand of Galloway, who. was constable of 

Scotland, and for his heirs he had three daughters. Of these, 
the first was married to Roger, earl of Winton ; the second to 
John Balliol ; the third to the earl of Albemarle ; and thus 
Galloway was divided into three parts, each falling to a woman ; 
whereat the men of Galloway were wroth, and chose for their 
leader Thomas, the bastard son of Alan, and laid waste the 
country on their borders. But Thomas suffered an utter 
defeat at the hands of the king, and as a suppliant begged for 
pardon. The king commanded that he should be taken to 
Maidens' Castle ^ at Edinburgh. In the same year Alexander 
gave Marjory in marriage to the earl of Pembroke, marshal 
of England. A short time after this the queen of Scotland^ 
— she was Henry'^s sister — made a pilgrimage to Canterbury, 
and on her return died at London. Now, as Alexander 
The second had no issue by this lady, two years afterwards he took a 
A^nder. second wife, Mary, daughter of Ingelram de Couchi \ and by 
her had a son, Alexander by name. 

Some three years after this, when Alexander, with a great 

* Generally *Gillescop *. 2 g^g ^„^^^ p j^ 

' Enguerrand de Couci — whose family motto was — 

Roi ne suU, ne Prince aussi ; 
Je suU le siear de Couci. 


company of nobles, was at Haddington, Patrick earl of Athole, Patrick is burnt 
a young man of liappiest promise, was burnt to death in a ^ *^ ' 
house where he was sleeping. The crime wa« attributed to 
the Bissets, who had pursued the earl with deadly hatred. His 
heirs, therefore, and his next of kin, fiercely attacked William 
Bisset, the head of that family; but by the consent of the 
nobles Bissefs lands were confiscated to the king, and the 
life of every member of his family was spared, on the con- 
dition that they all should leave the kingdom. 

In the following year several towns in Scotland — by what Towns are 
means is not known — were burnt to ashes ; such as Haddington, **™*' 
Roxburgh, Lanark, Stirling, Perth, Forfar, Montrose, and, the 
largest of them all, Aberdeen. At the first look of the thing, 
the origin of these conflagrations seems strange enough. Nor- 
wich in England, a very large city, succumbed twice or thrice 
to the same fate^. It may be that they were sent as a divine 
punishment for sin, or that they were the work of evil-disposed 
persons bent on mischief. For when we consider that all these 
towns are situated by the sea, or in the neighbourhood of rivers, 
it is impossible to take refuge in the theory that their destruc- 
tion was caused by veins of sulphur in the earth. 

Further, in the one thousand and two hundred and ninth ^ Death of 
year from the Virgin'^s travail, Alexander, in the eight-and-thir- 
tieth year of his reign, went that road by which all flesh must 
travel, and was buried at Melrose. Sixteen and a half years 
was his age when he was anointed king ; a man he was worthy 
to be a king ; piously disposed to churchmen and to the poor ; 
good men he befriended, bad men he had in abhorrence ; with 
an equal balance he dealt justice to all; wherefore it admits 
of no manner of doubt that at the hand of God, the absolutely 
just, he received his great reward. Full of danger is the life 
of kings, and when a king has followed after righteousness, his 
merit in the eyes of God is great indeed. How difficult are what is meri- 
virtue and art you shall see in the second book of the Ethics^, tonous m 

J ^ ' pnnces. 

and what more difficult than to govern aright a great state, 
and most of all a northern state, which has been used to no 
restraints ? Indeed, this man is worthy of all praise. With 

^ In 1463 and 1509. The roof of the cathedral was destroyed in the fire of 
1509. • ' This should be * forty-ninth.* • Arist. Eth. Nic, ii. 4. 

the Third. 

182 JOHN MAJOR^S HISTORY [book iv. 

the English king he had no dealings that were not peaceable. 
It is the part of wisdom in Scottish kings to cherish peace with 
their neighbours. Of the possessions bequeathed to him by 
his immediate ancestors he lost nothing, and his reign was 
marked from first to last by the observance of a most scrupu- 
lous justice toward his subjects. I may compare this man then, 
using no unfairness to others, with the most illustrious kings. 

CHAP. XI.— (y Alexander the Third, king of Scotland, and the 
dispute thai took place in the matter of his coronation ; of Egyptian 
days ; of free will ; and of the genealogy of the Scottish kings. 

Alexander On the death of Alexander the Second, his son, the third 

Alexander, then a boy of eight years, was appointed to be 
king. But in the matter of his coronation there arose a dis- 
pute among the nobility of the kingdom ; for some said that 
it behoved him first of all to be made a knight, or soldier, and 
thereafter to assume the ensigns of roy^^lty, while others said 
just the opposite. Yet a third party was found which denied 
both these contentions, and claimed that on that day nothing 
ought to be done, because the same was an unlucky and Egyp- 
tian day^ Now, when the aged Walter Gumming, earl of 
Menteith, saw how matters stood, he, remembering that of the 

poet — 

Et nocet et nocuit semper differre paratis^ 

and willing to prevent all risk of dissension among the mag- 
nates, used with them this argument towards the maintenance 
of peace, saying that in a kingly polity the headless body must 

1 One explanation of the fact that days of ill omen, — on which it was con- 
sidered undesirable to begin any undertaking, and even to be bled, — were called 
' Egyptian ' days may be found in lines 5, 6, of ' Versus de diebus ^gyptiacis ' 
{PMoi Laiini Minores^ ed. Baehrens, vol. v. p. 354), quoted by Mr. Emil 
Thewrewk de Ponor in the foumalofthe Gypsy Lore Society y vol. i. p. 372 : — 

Si tenebrae iEgyptus Graeco serraone vocantur, 
Inde dies mortis tenebrosos iure vocamus. 

But it seems more probable that the appellation had its origin simply in the 
ascription to the old Egyptians of all mathematical and astrological science, an 
explanation which has the support of Mommsen, Corpus Inscr. Lat.y vol. i. p. 
374. The Egyptian days were, according to the Codex Paris. N. 1338, January 
I and 25, February 4 and 26, March i and 28, April 10 and 20, May 3 and 25, 
June 10 and 16, July 13 and 22, August I and 30, September 3 and 21, October 
3 and 31, November 5 and 28, December 12 and 15. For the literature of the 
subject Mr. de Ponor's and M. P. Bataillard's notes in loco should be consulted. 


ever sway to and fro, like an oarless boat upon a stormy sea, 
and so got them to consent that the coronation should take 
place on the following day. 

For his view of the case I will allow myself to state certain Propositions i 
propositions. Of these the first is this : A precedent military TOronation'of 
service is nowise essential for the constitution of a true king ; *« ^^^S* 
for these ceremonies of a soldier''s service and of the anointing 
of a king are of human institution, and imposed as it were 
from a feeling of their propriety. Therefore one of them 
may be observed without the other. My second proposition 
is this: There is no Egyptian day more unlucky for the of Egyptian 
kingly coronation than another. The skiey influences exert ^^* 
no constraining power on a man\s free will, which is al- 
together unmaterial ; and a man who by his own wish and 
in the exercise of his reason has been crowned and anointed 
upon one day may do as well as if this had happened on 
another. In the matter of good luck ask for nothing ; but 
ask for a prudent mind, and that every act of your will 
may be regulated by wisdom, and then you shall do well. 
Though evils may befall a man in the way of punishment, 
as it were by chance, I do not for all that deny that the 
skiey influences and the changes of the seasons exert a power, 
and that a great one, upon seeds, and trees, and animals not 
endowed with reason. For it is of much moment to plant 
trees and to prune them at full moon and new moon, and to 
apply the knife or drugs to the hiunan body as indicated by 
the signs of the heavenly system, and at other times ^ And 
though the heavenly influences should incline a man to sensu- 
ality, these yet have no binding power upon his choice ; and if 
even his wish sliould take such a direction, it is easy to oppose 
the impulse upon reason shown ; and a man has the power so 
to accustom himself to resist the sensual impulse, as much in 
thought and wish as in the sensual act, that it shall become 
more difficult for him to oppose the habit of resistance than 

1 I 

Et membra corporis in signis prohibitis [? praehibitis] respondentibus ferro 
ac medicina, et alio tempore attingere.* Cf. the description of the * Doctour of 
Phisik ' in Chaucer's Prologue— \\. 41 1 -41 3 : 

In al this world was ther non him lyk 
To speke of phisik and of surgerye ; 
For he was groundud in astronomye. 

184 JOHN MAJOR'S HISTORY [book iv. 

to yield to the sensual impulse. This is plain in the case 
of the brutes, and in those men the evil conditions of whose 
birth have been overcome by a virtuous training. The parental 
inheritance of blood, what a man eats, and what he drinks, 
have far more bearing upon his impulses than the influence of 
the stars \ Whence it comes that, albeit we have not the power 
to foretell, in human fashion, the course of wars among 
princes, yet, understanding the secret designs of princes, 
and making conjecture as to the sources whence wars may 
spring, we may be able to deceive the ignorant vulgar by 
telling them that our knowledge has been gained by the 
practice of some such art. But this is the vanity of super- 
stitious and ambitious persons. 
Coronation of King Alexander then, mere boy as he was, seated under a 
canopy on the stone chair in the cathedral, and clothed in 
costly robes, was anointed by the archbishop of St. Andrews. 
And lo ! a certain Scot of the mountains, such as they call a 
Wild Scot, hoary with age, then appears in presence of the 
nobles, and in these words, spoken in his native tongue, 
salutes king Alexander : Benach de Re Albin Alexander, mak 

1 M. Charles Jourdain has pointed out in his essay on Nicolas Oresme and 
the astrologers of the Court of Charles the Fifth of France, 1364- 1380 {Ex- 
cursions Historiques^ p. 562) that the teaching of Aristotle in the twelfth book 
of his Metaphysica as to the action of the stars (which were supposed to be 
intermediaries between God and inferior beings, and for these beings the im- 
mediate principle of all life and action) contributed largely in the middle ages 
to the acceptance of judicial astrology. The long struggle of Oresme (d. 1382) 
in favour of a rational view was at the time without result ; and even after two 
centuries we find a lawyer and historian such as Jean Bodin inclining, in his 
•Republic' (1576), to the belief that in astronomical investigation (if we only 
possessed a complete record of the same from the beginning of time) would lie 
our only hope of discovering a guiding principle ' to know the changes and ruins 
which are to chance unto Commonweals'. Aquinas indeed rejected the con- 
ception that human destiny depended on the stars, and, as is plain from this 
expression of Major's opinion, his voice found an echo here and there in the 
representatives of Christian orthodoxy. A singular parallel to Major's view is to 
be found in Barbour's Brtis (xxxvi. 119 sq,)^ written about 150 years earlier. 
As to the influence of the stars, Barbour says : 

' Quhethlr sa man inclynit be 
To vertu or to mavite, 
He may richt wele refrenyhe his wIU 
Ouihir throu nnrtur or throu skill, 
And to the contrar turn him all.' 

Aristotle is then quoted as a well-known example of one whom 'his wit made 
virtuous ' through his refusal to follow his * kindly \i.e, natural] deeds '. 


Alexander, mak William, mak Henry, mak David. And thus 

he declared the genealogy of the king up to its first beginning, 

all in the Irish tongue, and not in the English spoken by us 

southern Scots. Turned into Latin it would run thus : — Salve The genea- 

Rex Albanorum Alexander, fili Alexandri, filii Guillelmi, filii o°^ScoS?° 

Henrici, filii Davidis, filii Malcolmi, filii Duncani, filii Beatricis, 

filise Malcolmi, filii Kenath, filii Alpini, filii Ethachi, filii 

Ethafind, filii Echdachi, filii Donaldi Brek, filii Occabuid, filii 

Edaim, filii Gobram, filii Dovengard, filii Fergusii magni, filii 

Erth, filii Echeach Munremoire, filii Engusafith, filii Fechel- 

meth Asslingith, filii Enegussa Buchyn, filii Fechelmeth Ro- 

maich, filii Senchormach, filii Kruithlind, filii Findachar, filii 

Akirkirre, filii Ecchach Audoch, filii Fiachrach Catinall, filii 

Echad Ried, filii Coner, filii Mogolama, filii Lugtagh Etholach, 

filii Corbre Crumgring, filii Darediomore, filii Corbre Findmor, 

filii Coneremore, filii Etherskeol, filii Ewan, filii Ellela, filii 

Jair, filii Dechath, filii Sin, filii Rosin, filii Ther, filii Rether, 

filii Rowen, filii Deamdil, filii Mane, filii Fergusii primi Sco- 

torum Regis in Albania. Now this Fergus was in truth son of 

Feredech, though by some, from the mistake of a scribe, he is 

called son of Ferechar (the words differ but little in sound). 

Perhaps the difficulty of pronunciation led him to make the 

change in the name. Then, man by man, without a break, this 

said Wild Scot recounted the said genealogy, until he arrived 

at the first Irish Scot who, setting out from the Ebro, a river 

of the Spains, was the first to set foot in Ireland. 

CHAP. XII. — Of the translation of the remains of Saint Margaret 
of England and Malcolm, king of the Scots ; of the marriage of Alex- 
ander and the dutpensation thai was granted him thereanent. Of the 
punishment inflicted upon vagabonds and Jews, and other events of his 

Ix the following year, Alexander and his mother, with the Translation of 
prelates of the Church, assembled at Dunfermline for the trans- ^nTMarmet 
lation of tlie remains of queen Margaret ; and when these were 
once raised, a most sweet fragrance filled the whole church. 
But while the remains were being carried with all due honour 
to tlie monument which marked the resting-place of her husband 
Malcolm, the bearers found themselves able by no means to 



[book IV 

Peace and 
union by mar- 
riage with Eng- 
land renewed. 

Dispensation in 
respect of near- 
ness of kin. 

Robbers are 

The Jews are 

go further, until certain wise men gave them this counsel, to 
disinter likewise the bones of Malcolm ; and when the saintly 
bones were again united either to either, they were carried 
without difficulty to the appointed place, where, with due 
adornment of gold and precious stones, they remain to this 

In the following year the chief men of the kingdom sent to 
English Henry, to gain from him a renewal of the treaty of 
peace, and to ask his daughter in marriage for king Alexander. 
Henry granted all their requests, and thus Alexander had to 
wife Margaret, daughter of the king of England. The con- 
sanguinity that here existed made no stumbling-block, inas- 
much as the Roman pontiff can, for urgent cause, grant a 
dispensation in the case of any kinship by blood or marriage 
which is not repugnant to the law of nature. No persons, 
indeed, are forbidden to intermarry except such as are enu- 
merated in the eighteenth chapter of Leviticus ; and there can 
be no more urgent cause for dispensation than is afforded by 
the establishment of a settled peace between neighbouring and 
hostile kingdoms ever ready, like those in question, to rush to 



A short time hereafter, from a careless administration of 
justice, there arose a grave disturbance, stirred up by evil- 
disposed and corrupt counsellors of the king. When this 
came to the knowledge of Henry of England, he proceeded 
forthwith to Wark, an English castle close to the Scottish 
borders, put away from the king those evil advisers, replaced 
them with a better sort, and made certain enactments of a 
wholesome character for the better conduct of the Scots. And 
his action in this matter gained for him no little praise among 
the Scots ; for he was now an old man, and, disregarding the 
infirmities of age, had undertaken a long and toilsome journey. 

In tlie same year, at Lincoln, once a large city of England, 
but now of no great importance ^, Henry punished with death 
a number of Jews, because they had crucified a Christian boy, 
Hugli by name, and had made an effigy of the mother of 

^ Malcolm Canmore, when he had met his death at Alnwick in 1093, was 
buried obscurely at Tynemouth. It was twenty years later that his lx)dy was 
brought to Dunfermline. 

2 Cf. Bk. I. ch. vi. p. 29. • Cf. Bk. I . ch. v. p. 22, note *. 


Christ \ But - not many days after, Walter Gumming, earl of New robbers. 
Menteith, and his fellow-conspirators, though often summoned 
to compear before king Alexander and his tutors, still failed to 
do so. They feared to face the assize or council of the realm. 
And not only did Walter, the foresaid earl, and his accomplices, 
perpetrate this act of disobedience, but, along with Alexander 
earl of Buchan, William earl of Mar, John Gumming, Hugh 
Abernethy, and a number of their following, he seized king 
Alexander at Kinross by night, while he slept, and shamelessly 
carried him, in negligence of every form of courtesy, to Stirling. 
These men then went on to maltreat and oppress by all means 
they could the former ministers of the king. For when the 
administration of justice is once allowed to grow slack, the 
stronger aim at the ruin of the weaker, and stop at nothing ; 
so that then indeed that word of the wise man is verified to the 
full,—* Woe to the land whose king breaks bread in the morn- 
ing *** ; for in the childhood of a king the chief men impudently 
try to carry all at their own will and pleasure. In acting thus 
they not only commit a sin ; their conduct is at the same time 
most imprudent; for often, when the king comes to mature 
years, he punishes those princes for the crimes they committed 
in his youth. But, in the same year, the very doer and first 
contriver of this deed of shame came to his end by poison ; nor 
did his wife escape the suspicion of having compassed his death. 
This woman, holding the Scottish nobility in scorn, married an 
Englishman of low birth, by name John Russel ; and on this 
account she was, with her husband, ignominiously proscribed. 
But though this proscription of the clan Gumming was well 
deserved, it was not then and there carried out, owing to the 

^ Chaucer mentions the murder in the end of the Prioress's Tale : — 

O yonge Hugh of Lyncoln ; slayn also 
With cursed Jews (as it is notable, 
For it nys but a litel while ago). 

Cf. Ht^hes de Lincoln : Recueil de ballades anglo-normandes et kossaises relatives 
au meurtre de cet enfant. Public, avec une introduction et des notes, par Fr. 
Michel. 1834. 

* 'Sed non multis, etc.* The *sed* probably refers to the 'aliqua statuta 
salubria pro Scotorum moribus ' of the end of the last paragraph. 

' Ecclesiastes x. 16: *Vae tibi terra, cujus rex puer est, et cujus principes 
mane comedunt.* The condition of his own country, whose king was at the 
time a boy six years of age, was no doubt in Major's mind ; and it would seem 
to be by a misprint that the most relevant part of the verse is omitted. 



[book IV. 

The noble 
family and 
faction of the 

Birth of 

Discovery of 
a cross. 

The Carmelites 
arri\e in Scot- 

Birth of 

Martha of 

strength and numbers of that family. The clan Gumming 
counted among its members at that time two-and-thirty 
knights, without reckoning its nobles. Both kingdoms of 
Britain abound in knights. These knights always wear gilded 
spurs, and it is ever counted among them the height of 
disgrace to fly from the battle-field ; the poorest of them 
have ten or twelve stout horsemen dependent on them. In 
Britain, following herein the French custom, boy-servants are 
not in use; their place is ever taken by bearded men fully 
armed. The family of Cumming was thus over-powerful with 
its nobles and knights — powerful to such a pitch that in my 
opinion it has not its like in Britain at the present day. This 
condition made rather for the ruin of the family than for its 
advantage, for it needs much virtue to bear prosperity. 

In the year of the Lord twelve hundred and fifty-seven, and 
in the thirteenth year^ of Alexander'^s reign, there was bom to 
him a daughter, Margaret by name. And in the same year 
there was discovered at Peebles a very beautiful and ancient 
cross, for which Alexander showed his pious feeling by ordering 
that a church should there be built. That year, too, witnessed 
the arrival in Scotland of the friars of Mount Carmel, on whom 
Richard bishop of Dunkeld bestowed a chapel near Perth, 
at Tullilum *, and richly endowed the same. There it was that 
the Carmelite Order had its first planting. Thereafter, in the 
twentieth year of his reign, Alexander had a son bom to him 
at Jedburgh, and the child was named after his father. 

In the following year the earl of Carrick died, not in- 
gloriously, on an expedition to the Holy Land. He left as his 
heir an only daughter, whose name was Martha. This Martha, 
when she had one daiy gone forth to take her pleasure in the 
chase, chanced to meet a man of noble birth and comely to look 
on, in the flower of his age, Robert Bruce. She took him with 
her, though he was somewhat loath to go, to her castle of 
Turaberry, and there she contracted with him a clandestine 
marriage ^ The thing mightily displeased king Alexander 
when he came to hear of it, and he had the design to dis- 
inherit the countess ; but afterward he changed his mind, and 

^ The 13th year was 1262, not 1257. 2 Founded in 1262. 

' She was widow of Adam of Kilconquhar. See Exchequer Roiis, vol. i. p. Ix. 


he left her and her husband in peace. This Robert Bruce Robert Bruce, 
owned the domain of Annandale in Scotland and of Cleveland 
in England. His father was that Robert Bruce who was sur- 
named the Noble ; and his grandfather was the Robert Bruce 
who had married Isabella, the second daughter of David earl 
Huntingdon. In the year of our Lord one thousand two 
hundred and seventy-four was bom Robert Bruce to the said 
Robert Bruce and Martha, countess of Car rick. In the fol- 
lowing year the abbey of Sweetheart was founded by a noble Sweetheart 
and wealthy woman, Devorguilla, daughter to the one time '"^""'^^n^- 
Alan of Galloway. A little later the two sons of Alexander 
died ; so that his surviving child, Margaret, became sole heiress 
of the kingdom, and she was given in marriage to the king of 
Norway, whose name was Hangovan ^. 

Further, in the year of the Lord twelve hundred and eighty- 
six, Alexander fell from his horse to the west of Kinfichom, D«ath of 


broke his neck, and so died ; and his death brought in its train 
evil consequences for the Scots in no small measure, as will 
appear from what has still to be told. Here I cannot but 
greatly marvel why the Scots did not give the heiress of their 
kingdom in marriage to the English king ; but they preferred 
to the Englishman a king of Norway, who lived outwith the 
island. I will state my opinion in few words. The Scots 
acted, I must hold, most unwisely in the matter of this mar- Theunwisdor 
riage. And I lay down this proposition : There was no king 2^i"heireM^a 
whom the Scots ought to have preferred as a husband for the Scotland to ti 
heiress to the king of England. And had the position been way. 
reversed — had it been the heiress of England for whom a hus- 
band was being sought — I hold that there could have been 
found no marriage for her more suitable than with the king of 
Scotland. For thus, and thus only, could two intensely hostile 
peoples, inhabitants of the same island, of which neither can 
conquer the other, have been brought together under one and 
the same king. And what although the name and kingdom of 
the Scots had disappeared — so too would the name and king- 
dom of the English no more have had a place among men — for 
in the place of both we should have had a king of Britain. Nor 

^ i.e. Haco. There is confusion here between Margaret, Alexander's daughter, 
and her child Margaret (the Maid of Norway). See pedigree, pp. 2io-ii. 

190 JOHN MAJOR^S HISTORY [book iv. 

would the Scots have aught to fear from taxes imposed by an 
English king. For the English king I dare to make answer, 
that he would have respected our ancient liberties, just as the 
king of Castile^ at the present day permits to the men of 
Aragon the full enjoyment of their rights. And, besides, when 
the commonwealth is to have advantage therefrom, it is right 
to pay taxes to the king, as they may be called for by any par- 
ticular exigence. But I take it that the Scottish nobility have 
an objection to the notion of the rule of a single king through- 
out the length and breadth of the island ; and the same is 
true perhaps of the English nobility, since the outstanding 
men among them would not then dare to make face against 
the king when his power had grown to such a height. And 
yet the result would have been pregnant with advantage to 
them. They would have known what it is to have an equal 
administration of justice; no man would have been able to 
lay violent hands on his neighbour ; their houses and families 
would have been secured of an undisturbed existence ; never 
would they have known invasion from a foreign king ; and if 
at any time they had to avenge an injury, there would have 
been no foe within their borders to temper with a sense of 
insecurity the justice of their quarrel ^. 

Our chroniclers of this period tell that Thomas of Ercil- 
doune, called Rhymer, [*hoc est Thomas Rhythmificator "*], 
when he was sitting in the castle of Dunbar, in presence of 
many Scots and Englishmen, was asked by the earl of March 
■^ to fort*tell what should happen on the following day ; and that 
he, heaving a dwp sigh, made answer — ' Woe to the morrow, 
a day I say of dule and sorrow, which shall bring upon us 
before the hour of nocm so great a storm that all Scotland 
iihall grow dumb with fear/ The earl of March therefore 
exjHH*tiHl that a stmng wind would arise, and made sport of 
Thomas on their first meeting next day at breakfast; but 
inuniHliately then* arrivt^l a messenger, making all speed, who 
dwlared the sudden death of the king. Our writers assure us 

' bVuliimml of Aragon, to whom Major must refer, died in 1 516. He is 
highly pittUcd in the Jn {^mir/HM, ed. 1521, 23d qu. of the 15th dist., as *that 
k\\\\* !mt Imrly dead, worthy to l)e ranked with the greatest kings, who forbade 
the pructiiv of ducU*. 

*» VU »•#»/•', Uk. 1, ch. vii. ; Bk. iv. ch. v. ; also Bk. iv. ch. xviii. 



that Thomas often foretold this thing and the other, and the 
common people throughout Britain give no little credence to 
such stories, which for the most part — and indeed they merit 
nothing else — I smile at. For that such persons foretold 
things purely contingent before they came to pass I cannot 
admit ; and if only they use a sufficient obscurity of language, 
the uninstructed vulgar will twist a meaning out of it some- 
how in the direction that best pleases them. 

This Alexander, in point of goodness, is worthy to be Alexander 
placed alongside his father. Four times a year it was his ^°^* 
custom to visit the various districts of his kingdom, when he 
listened to the suits of the poor and held courts of justice, 
finding fit redress for every man according to the necessities 
of his case. The wife of the king of Norway, she who was 
daughter to the king of Scotland, and heiress of the kingdom, 
bore a daughter ; another Margaret she was — but, along with 
her mother, she died. And thus there arose no little uncer- Margaret dies 
tainty as to tlie rightful heir to the Scottish throne— a con- '*'''''°"^ ^'''^' 
dition fraught with dangers always to a kingdom, as shall be 
shown in the sequel from the history of the Scots and English. 
But I will begin with the English chroniclers ; and afterward 
I will pass in review what the Scots chroniclers may have to 
contribute, and declare what I have come to hold as the truth 
of the whole matter. 

CHAP. XIII. — Of what took place in Britain at this time, according 
to the narrative of Caxtoji the English chronicler in the Jirst place — 
with a refutation of the statements made by him ; follows, in the second 
place, another narrative, as we find it in the Scots chroniclers. 

As to this present matter, Caxton, an English historian, 
gives the following account. Alexander, king of Scotland, 
died after Wales had been completely reduced by Edward. 
David, earl of Huntingdon, with his issue, ought to have sue- David of Hui 
ceeded to the Scottish kingdom, but the most of the nobility ^*°8don. 
were opposed to this. And there was a contention even in the 
family of David ; for he had three daughters, and Baliol had 
married the eldest of them, Bruce the second, and Hastiness 
the third. These three nobles, on behalf of their wives, laid 

t 5« 


dftixn to the throoe*. Wben the Scottish nobilitr perceived 
the CMOSPTf^ t£sit caisht torn from this qumireL they chose 
EriXv^uu of Eoziisad far thfsr kin^, and put him in possession 
of ScocluahL Wfeereopoa BftBoL Bruce, and Hastings went 
to Eii«:ari. aad sskevi hs which of them was to be king. He, 
whea ht httl takes cocskI with the Scots and considered their 
iaeamis <&?vaadie»% fecmd thst Joha Baliol was the kwful heir, and 
aJ<o laifcr W hai to rsnSer ofaedioice* to the English king as 
smx. ko^ fLXiavr. BaBoi thea &i hoi ag ig to the king of England. 

^K^*^* Bun & fCicn tJHie ai^ervani Eivard made a joumev to Gas- 
s ^>^^~ CKny. wincji at that tiiae kiJ mat been completely conquered ; 
jmc th» esmiztiixi the der^ came to his help to the 
a m ctur: «f the half i^*^\ thev posKSKd. When John Baliol 
hearc cf thk^ he fent to Roon^ pcmjing to be relieved of the 
oai^ he V*^? taken to EivanL And not long after Edward 
Cftlhn^ a srn: atdt wherewith to march against John 
c £jMK^ Bta£^ ajhi be ttx^ Berwick, the first town you come to in 
fo!<^«ai ; asii. afler that* he kiid siege to the castle of Dunbar, 
Mii t^ Scv>ct2$h Mce that cane to the relief of the castle was 
JcsCTL^^ved— «Tea twosftzai-twenty thousand of them. Amongst 
the Sct?c§^ however* I^ttrick Graham made a long and stout 
nKQsCftasce* but ia at kndcth. &:hting to the end, and receiving 
b«rt ^-awi: iirip 6vm ai* fcllowsw The castle of Dunbar thus 
felt ncv.* ;i? btduitij ot the En^rlbh king, along with three earls, 
^^en btu^HJtts^ dctd erarfit-^Miid-thirty knights, that were of its 
^Bsfrwco. All taese EJw^rd sent to London. John Baliol, 
ithi A»iB^ ot :he cai*rf amotttc the Scottish nobles, next went to 
Kd^;tfvu He ^iettt tbem to London, and then demanded of 
tfcwttt ^h*t fvJtv^ tbey propu«eil to make for their former crimes 
^^Wis( hittt. To * uiAU they threw themselves on his mercy, 
^Mad the vHfcly vHith thAt the king exacted from them was that 
the^ shv.Hikl theuw&rth be fiiithful to him, and never afterwards 
t^^ ATUKi ^i^Eaiust him or his. Four bishops on tlie part of the 
v4efx> ^iUiiucly tixJ^ this oath, as did also John Gumming, the 
,1^ v4* StnfcthenK\ and the earl of Carrick ; and all these 
t^ki>k«irvl ^«t hack to Scotland. But it was not long before 

* *A«si Vxtt^ bMwAiv!, thAt was full gentyll and true, let enquyre by the 
s^^vclt* v^^ SsVtloiKic% whichc of them was of y« eldest blode.*— Caxton, u.s. 
lot \<i** ' Parcre habebat. 


the Scots began to revolt against the English king ; and John 
Baliol, when he foresaw the turmoil that would arise, left 
Scotland for ever. But the Scots chose for their king a 
certain William Wallace, up to this point a man with nothing William 
illustrious in his origin, and he wrought much havoc on the Wallace.^ 
English ^. The better then to make a stand against Edward 
of England, the Scots sent the archbishop of St. Andrews to 
France, with the prayer that the king would send his brother 
Charles into Scotland, and that so the French and the Scots 
might make a joint attack upon the English ; but the French 
refused the prayer of the Scots. 

It was about this time that Edward sent a strong force 
against the Scots under the command of Henry Percy earl of 
Warenne, William Latimer *, and Hugh Cressingham. With a 
small troop of soldiers William Wallax or Wallace met the 
English army at Stirling. At that place a fierce battle was Defeat of the 
fought, in which Hugh Cressingham and many of the English ^ 
lost their lives. When Edward hears of this disaster, he gets 
a large army together, and, entering Scotland on the eve of 
the feast of Saint Magdalen'^s, harries the country as he goes. 
He met the Scots on Saint Magdalene's day, and at Falkirk a 
battle was fought in which there fell thirty thousand of the 
Scots, and of the English as many as eighteen thousand. G«^* Jo«s o" 
Among the latter was Frere Bryan Jay*, a knight and a notable 
warrior too, who had given chase to William Wallace when 
he saw the Scot hastening from the field ; but William Wallace 
was on the look-out for him, and slew him. The result of this 
battle was that Edward had all Scotland at his wilL 

Some time after this Edward married the sister of Philip of 
France, and again enters Scotland. This time no single Scot, 
with the exception of William Wallace, questions his authority. 
But, in the three-and-twentieth year of Edward*'s reign, this The punish- 
perfidious traitor falls into the hands of the English king, "n w^^ 
is carried to London, dragged at horses'* tails, and in the end 

^ *Wherfore y® Scottes chose vnto theyr kyng Willyam Waleys a rybaud 
and an harlot, comen vp of nought, and to englysshmen did moche harme.* — 
Gixton, U.S. fol. xciv. 

2 Orig. * Lawium * ; Caxton * Latomer '. 

* Orig. * Frery Biyansay * ; F. * Frery Bryan Jay *; Caxton * Frere Brian Jay *. 



194 JOHN MAJOR'S HISTORY [book iv. 

quartered. Further, his head was mounted upon a spear and 
exposed to the view of all men on London bridge. 

There then you have English Caxton's story, which we have 
turned from English into Latin. It cannot be said that the 
man has spared his anvil, but, with all his forging, the result is 
not improbabilities merely, but a mass of incoherencies as well. 
lisproof For the assertion that the Scots chose, sought, or accepted two 
*^°' kings, one as superior, the other as subject to him, is wanting 
in every element of likelihood. If the Scots desired that 
Edward the First should be their king, to what purpose summon 
him as j udge among the three claimants of the crown ? And 
further, it is of all things the most improbable that well-bom 
Scots should choose for their king a man who was a plebeian 
and quite unknown; for sooner than that would they have 
chosen one of the three claimants, or one of their own nobles, 
me Leaving Caxton, then, and his silly fabrications out of the 

question, I shall proceed to place the history of the Scots in its 
true light. When Edward had gained possession of the castle 
of Dunbar, he marched against John Baliol, who was then at 
Forfar. There John Gumming, lord of Strathbogy, and John 
Baliol met him, and the latter surrendered to the English king 
every claim that he had to Scotland. King Edward then sent 
John Baliol to London along with his son Edward. Keeping 
Edward in prison, he sends John Baliol into Scotland. But 
the Scots would have none of him, for they knew him not only 
to be a man averse from war, but a coward. Then, when 
John Baliol saw that he was despised in his own country, 
he went to France, that he might there lead a quiet and private 
life ^. After his departure the Scots choose twelve guaitlians, 
and send into England John Gumming, earl of Buchan, with 
instructions to do any harm he could to a nation that his 
countrymen had so much reason to hate. But the English were 
in strong force in the western parts of Scotland, as in Ayr and 
the district round about, and held various well-fortified castles 
with the help of no small following of the Scots. The Scots 
they treated with inhuman cruelty. This conduct of theirs 

^ * ut quiete vivat et private * ; a favourite phrase. Cf. ch. xiv. ad fin. * quieti 
et vitae privatae me accommodabo '. 


stirred the indignation of most of the Scots, and in a signal 
manner of Wallace, and whenever they found themselves in a 
remoter part in greater numbers than the English they attacked 
them. Our native chroniclers, who have written in the English 
tongue, extol this William Wallace to the skies, and relate of wmiam 
him that he had never need to strike a second blow. For so waUaoe.^*^ 
great was his bodily strength, as well as his courage, that no 
armour could stand against his sword. This and much else, 
that I confess I reckon among the things that cannot at least 
be proved, I will pass over^. I will now proceed to examine 
the narrative of those historians who have written in Latin, so 
far at least as the result of their labours is capable of being 

CHAP. XIV. — A truer version of the deeds of William Wallace or 

This William was sprung from one of the smaller gentle wiiiiam 
families only in the land of Kyle near to Ayr, where, too, his Jlri*^^'^^ 
surname is one of the commonest. He was the second son, — his courage, 
elder brother was a knight, — and he was robust of body, with 
limbs strong and firmly knit, his natural colour somewhat 
swarthy, of a complexion partly choleric, partly melancholy ; his 
temper, therefore, quick and haughty. Wise and prudent he 
was, and marked throughout his life by a loftiness of aim which 
gives him a place, in my opinion, second to none in his day and 
generation. If it be said that Robert Bruce was his superior 
in military genius, I do not care to range myself on the other 
side ; but let it be borne in mind that he flourished at a later 
date than William. William had no other instructors in warfare 
than experience and his own genius. When he happened upon 
one of the English, who were at that time in great force in 
Scotland, and most of all at Ayr, he slew him. He was attacked 

^ In his In Quartum Sententiarum^ fol. Ixxxvi., ed. 1530, Major couples 
Wallace with Achilles : ' The poets have fabled that Achilles was brought up on 
the muscles of oxen, and not on partridges or pheasants. And William Wallace, 
as our chroniclers have it, used to call for that part of oxen which they call the 
nine-plies, and not for partridges or pheasants.' There is a part of beef called 
in Scotland * the nine holes ' at the present day. 

196 JOHN MAJORS HISTORY [book it. 

hj tbem buuit timesy but two or eren three Englishinen were 
scarce aUe to make stand against him, — such was his bodily 
strength, sudi also the qnicknem of his onderstanding, and his 
indomitable ooorage. As time vent aa^ h» &me spread ever 
the wider, and manj of the Scots tsmtrnd with him an asylum 
and a sure defience. He set fiie br n^rht to the bams of Ayr, 
in which were some of the chief men amongst the English, and 
those who eg ap cJ the lames fcO far hk swonL This exploit 
won for him so much reaown that some amongst his country'*s 
nobles, and of higher birth than hib own, betook themselves to 
him. Amoi^ these were two whose names were widely known 
— John Graham. kn^U and Robert Boyd, both of them men 
of tried courage. At length, when he had won important 
victories over the enemy,he was hailed as regent by most of the 
Scots^ with the universal acdamation of the common people. 

In the yvar of the Lord twelve hundred and ninety-seven 
he $et hinksetf to nue to the ground those castles which the 
English hi^ on Scottish soiL There was no extreme of cold or 
heat« of hui^e^er or thii^t, that he could not bear. Like Hannibal 
or Uly^sses he understood to draw up an army in order of 
battle^ while like another Telamonian Ajax he could carry on 
the fight in open field ; so that he dreaded not with a handful 
of men to scatter and put to opai rout the best equipped 
battalions of the English* His hatred of the English was as a 
spur that allowed him no rest from fighting. The English, 
ther\^>ie« and along with them the Scottish nobles, pursued 
him with a deadly hatred, inasmuch as his conspicuous valour 
threw their own deeds into the shade. Yet did some of the 
lH>ble«^ as well as all the common people, cast in their lot 

with him. 

When Eilward of England heard of all that William 
WidUce was doing, he determined to crush him, and sent 
n large arwy against him into Scotland, under Hugh Cas- 
aiugham (whom the English historians call Cressinhame). 
When Wallace i^ne to hear of this, he postponed for a time 
the sJt^je of the castle of Dundee, which was then his chief 
lui»iut>i(S that he might bring every obstacle to the English 
ndvaiHV. He attackeil them therefore near the bridge over 
the Forth at Stirling in a fiercely contested battle. He slew 


in fight the English leader, put his troops to the rout, and 
returned to his besieging of the castle of Dundee, which forth- 
with surrendered to him. With such a courage did he carry 
himself, and did his work too in so short space of time, that 
he soon left not a single Englishman in Scotland, nor yet a 
Scot who had shown favour to the English. The mass of dead Pestilence 
bodies, meanwhile, left upon the field tainted the air, as these ^scotSnd. 
¥rill always do, and bred a terrible pestilence, which was 
followed by a rise in the price of com. Wallace designed 
therefore to have his winter quarters in England, and there to 
keep a large army afoot at English charges. Nor did his con- 
science herein prick him one whit ; for it was plain abundantly 
that the Scots had been sore oppressed by the English, that 
they had suffered great losses at the hands of an enemy from 
whom they could not, in ordinary course of law, look for resti- 
tution — and they gave their minds therefore to meting out 
some sort of justice to themselves. Wallace sent to the furthest 
bounds of Scotland to increase as best he might the numbers 
of his soldiery ; and the Aberdonians, when they showed an 
inclination to resist his call, he punished with the utmost 
severity. Others, fearing a like punishment, flocked to him 
in troops. Then, when he had gathered a large army together, 
on the feast of All Saints he set out to invade England. One 
part of his army consisted of disciplined soldiers who had seen 
much service ; the rest was drawn from the common people, 
with no attempt at order. It had a firm footing in England 
on the feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mother of Christ; 
for though he had been attacked by the English many times 
both by night and by day, not once — such were his unfailing 
vigilance and his courage — had he suffered defeat. At length, 
after three months of such a life as this, he led home his army, 
rich in the fortunes of war and laden with English spoil. Dur- 
ing all that time his army had suffered no disaster. Towards 
unwarlike persons, such as women and children, towards all 
who claimed his mercy, he showed himself humane ; the proud 
and all who offered resistance he knew well to curb. 

Soon after this English Edward sent an embassy to Wallace, 
whose instruction was to tell him that he would not have dared 
to invade England had England'^s king been at home. This 

198 JOHN MAJOR^S HISTORY [book iv. 

filled Wallace with wrath, and he promised the ambassadors 
that come next Easter he would invade England, and offer 
battle to king Edward in his own kingdom. He soon got 
together an army by the time that he had promised, some 
thirty thousand strong. He offered his men no pay, but each 
went to war at his own charges. King Edward, then, mth a 
strong army, and Wallace meet face to face at Stanmore^. 
Meanwhile the armies are being arrayed in order of battle, 
but Edward, yielding to the advice of his counsellors, refused 
the fight. When the Scottish soldiery became aware of this, 
they aimed at taking Edward as he fled ; but the far-seeing 
judgment of Wallace prevented this. He commanded them 
to keep their ranks, for he feared that wlien they were scattered 
in pursuit the army of Edward, in its orderly retreat, might 
turn and overcome them. For he said ^ that for him it would 
be glory enough to have forced a proud and powerful king to 
quit the field in his own kingdom. Wallace, therefore, vrith- 
drew his army, and led it back to Scotland scatheless. Further, 
he deprived of their lands those Scots who had been obstinately 
favourable to the English rule, and at his own pleasure con- 
ferred the same upon those who had done good service to the 
Scottish commonwealth. And such lands are still enjoyed by 
men of our own day, who hold their titles from William 
Wallace, then regent. The Scottish nobles did not relish this 
arrangement. Yet were they powerless to find a remedy. 
But just as the renown of William grew from day to day, so 
too grew the jealousy of the nobles. For, * "'tis the high peaks 
that the lightning strikes ''^ Under his glory the reputation 
of those who had been accustomed to the first place seemed to 
dwindle ; without their help he conducted the whole govern- 
ment of the reahn, and with few of them was he on a fkmiliar 
footing. Nor is this to be wondered at; for it would have 
been no easy matter for Wallace and for them to take common 
action on any point. This Wallace, whom the common people 
with some of the nobles followed gladly, had a lofty spirit ; and 

1 A barren tract between Westmoreland and Yorkshire. — Hodgson's North- 
uniberiandy vol. i. p. 71. 
* Orig. and F. * dicebant * ; read * dicebat *. 
' 'feriunt altos fiilgura monies'; inHor. Od, 11. x. 11, * feriuntque summos *, etc. 


bom, as he was, of no illustrious house, he yet proved himself 
a better ruler, in the simple armour of his integrity, than any 
of those nobles would have been. Now there was found in the 
ranks of the highborn men who hated Wallace the family of 
the Cummings, which we have spoken of above as one of the 
most powerful in the country ; but owing to the position of 
authority that Wallace had gained for himself, and also to 
his reputation in the field, none of the nobility dared to pro- 
voke him openly. When English Edward comes to hear of 
the slumbering jealousies amongst the Scots, he invades Scotland 
with a huge army at once of Englishmen and Scots, to give 
battle to William Wallace ; and, as seems from every circum- 
stance most probable, it was by the Scottish nobility that he 
was secretly invited to attack Wallace. It may be that the D^gnsof 
nobility looked upon William as aiming at the royal power, nobles. "* 
and that they preferred English rule to William'^s. That is a 
feature of nobles generally — to prefer the yoke of a superior to 
that of an inferior. 1 fancy, too, that they aimed thereby at 
weakening the power at once of Edward and of William — 
which done, the government of the kingdom would revert to 

The English king landed at Varia Capella ^ ; and Wallace 
led an army thither against him. But before the battle 
began the Scots quarrelled among themselves which should 
take the command ; and Wallace would yield the place to 
no single man of them. Here I cannot approve him ; for it Wallaces 
was his country's hour of need, and it behoved him to sink his insured! 
claims in the expulsion of the common enemy of all. For a 
story is told of the lord Stuart, how he likened Wallace to an 
owl, saying that the owl indeed was at first featherless, and 
so begged of every other bird a feather, which when it had 
obtained it swelled in its pride of plumage over the rest of 
birds ; and not otherwise Wallace, though all his strength was 
in the support of the nobles, now aimed at having dominion 
over them. All this the lord Stuart is reported to have said 
in William's presence, while the army was arraying for battle. 

^ i.e. Falkirk — supposed to be the *kirk on the Va/ium' or wall of Agricola. 
Its Gaelic name was Eglais-bhrac=* spotted church* — latinised into Varia 
Capella. See Miss Blackie's Etymological Geography ^ 2d ed., p. 97. 

200 JOHN MAJOR'S HISTORY [book iv. 

But this made no delay in joining battle, and at the first onset 
P>c Cmnn^igs Wallace saw himself deserted by the whole faction of the 
Cummings, which had seemed to favour the English king. 
Not the less Wallace held his ground with unshaken courage, 
and a battle was fought long and fierce. When Robert Bruce, 
a Scot of undaunted courage, who aspired to the throne of 
Scotland, saw how the fight was stiff and not like to be decided, 
he led one division of his army which was under his command ^o 
as to attack Wallace in the rear. For there was a longish hill 
behind the Scots army, and when Bruce and his men took note 
of this, they fetched a circuit unawares about the hill, and so 
fell upon Wallace from behind. Thus attacked — behind, in 
front, by overwhelming numbers — he still refused to fly. Two 
Stuart is slain, of the chief nobles fell in that battle — the lord Stuart and 

Macduff earl of Fife, likewise John Graham, knight, and a 

veteran soldier^, whom for his strenuous courage Wallace 

reckoned without his match among men. In the end, when all 

Wallace sounds his munitions were spent, Wallace gave the signal for retreat, 

a retreat. g^uj ^j^-jj |.j^g surviving remnant of his army took to flight. 

There are those still living in our midst who will not suffer the 
word * flight ' to be used in reference to Wallace, and will allow 
only that he avoided a danger ; for * flighty they say, must ever 
bear an ugly meaning. But in this they err. To attack the 
attacker by waiting for him ; to delay ; yea, to fly — these too 
are branches of fortitude ; for the greatest general that ever 
When a brave lived not only may fly but in a certain contingency is bound 
ri^htiySy. ^^ %• ^^^ better it is that he should be able to keep himself 

and his men in safety against a fitting moment than by 
their death bring ruin quick and complete upon his country. 
Wherefore Wallace was justified in seeking safety for his men 
in flight. He drove his army before him as it had been a 
flock of sheep, and himself the shepherd, who in his slow retreat 
should keep a watchful eye upon the wolves in pursuit. Yet 
Frere is slain, one of the English — Frerus Bryangen ^ was his name, and he 
was over-anxious for military glory — went ahead of his com- 
panions and followed Wallace closely. But Wallace was on 
the look-out, and slew him. His death was a lesson to his 
brethren to keep their ranks, and not to seek, any one of them, 

^ Militiae pater. ^ sic Orig. and F. Cf. p. 193, note '. 



to go ahead of his companions. Caxton asserts that the horse 
of this highborn and over-combative Englishman stuck in deep 
mud, and that it was then that Wallace fell upon him ; but if 
he was unable to get out of the mud in the same way that 
Wallace got out of it, it does not say much for his soldiering ; 
and, besides, he should have been on his guard against a man 
of Wallace's strength — ^against a man too who had Wallace's 
just cause of provocation, and who did not fear to ride alone 
betwixt two armies. 

It is related that after this battle Robert Bruce came to 
speak secretly with Wallace, and addressed him in these words : The speech of 
* How comes it, bravest of men, that rashly daring thou dost 
wage war with a so mighty king, when this king too has the 
support alike of Englishmen and of Scots, and when on all sides 
thou hast to fear the ill-will of thy country's nobles ? Dost 
thou not see the Cummings, dost thou not see me, and most of 
the other chiefs as well, all of us upon the English side ? Few 
are the nobles upon thy side ; and though the lowborn people 
be with thee, these are more fickle than the wind, and follow 
now thy half-ruined fortunes.' I take it that Robert spoke thus, 
willing to test the secret bent of Wallace, whether, perhaps, 
he were aspiring to the supreme power ; well content, I must 
think, however, that William lost the day. To him Wallace 
made answer: 'Thy coward sloth is cause of all; thou didst W^***'* 
lay claim to the throne, I never ; all that I have done I did 
for this reason only : that I am a soldier, and that I love my 
country. For I resolved to spare no strain to drive out of this 
kingdom every single Englishman ; and had I not been met at 
every turn by the opposition of our nobles, 'tis beyond a doubt 
that I would have done it ; yea, had those noble persons only 
given me to serve under me the men that till their lands, they 
might themselves have stayed at home. Consider this : that 
whereas I have had under me to-day scarce ten thousand men, 
and these of the common people, I should have had, but for the 
stumbling-blocks with which our nobles have strewed my path, 
one hundred thousand simple tillers of the soil eager for the 
fight. But it is to-day that I have felt the full measure in 
which I am hated by the nobles ; and let me counsel thee, if 
thou hast designs upon the kingdom, beware those all-powerful 


202 JOHN MAJOR'S HISTORY [book iv. 

Cummings. If they had given a thought to their country''8 
honour, whatever may have been their prejudice to me- ward, 
they ought not to have yielded one step. And even had they 
vowed fidelity to the £nglish king, they were no way bound to 
keep it. When the fulfilment of a promise would bring dis- 
grace, it is well worth while to break it, and to tre^t that 
determination as null and void. For myself, I am weary of my 
life ; I would rather die than live. By the Holy Ghost I 
swear, that for the future I will have naught to do with public 
matters, but will devote myself to quiet and the life of a private 
person."* ^ When Bruce heard this speech, though he may not 
have regretted Wallace'^s misfortune, yet it is said that he was 
moved to tears, when he considered the strenuous courage of 
the man and the grandeur of his words. 

CHAP. XV. — Of John Cumming, regent of Scotland; of the rest of 
the feats of Wallace^ and of his miserable ending, but his happy change 
from this life. 

John Cumming, Afi^r the infliction of this defeat upon Scotland, Edward* 
ngoit o t- ^.jjQugjj^ i\^^^ everything in that country was peaceably estab- 
lished, and returned to England. After his departure the 
Scots choose for their regent John Cumming and not William 
Wallace. I do not make out that Wallace held any kind of 
regency save what he took upon himself; but that regency he 
exercised in all uprightness of heart. Nor was Wallace even 
summoned by this regent of the Cumming faction to help him 
with his advice in the conduct of the kingdom, though Cum- 
ming was fully aware of his pre-eminent worth. He acted, 
perhaps, in this manner, from a feeling that Wallace, who but a 
short time before had exercised supreme power, would not readily 
have taken a lower place. But when Edward heard that the 
Scots had chosen John Cumming as regent, he got together a 
fresh army of thirty thousand men, and intrusted the same to 
the command of Rodolph Confrey — an able man he was — with 
instruction to make for Scotland. When Confrey had come as 
far as Roslin, he makes a threefold division of his army — to 

^ See ante, ch. xiii. 


each division ten thousand men with its own general. When Cumming's 
this came to the knowledge of John Gumming the regent, U^£'|^^^ 
though he had with him but seven thousand men along with 
Simon Fraser, he so carried matters that he defeated one divi- 
sion of the English army, — and not that only, for on the self- 
same day, and with troops exhausted by fatigue, he twice 
again gave battle, and so put to the rout the whole thirty 
thousand of the English. When Edward learned this defeat, 
he collected from among the Gascons, the Irish, the English, 
even from the Scots who favoured the English rule, a vast army, 
and, entering Scotland, soon had the whole country at his feet. 
He spent the winter at Dunfermline, and his son, Edward of 
Carnarvon, brought from France, by water, a rich provision of 
food to Perth. Of wine of Gascony there was such plenty that 
it was sold, you might almost say, for nothing. For three 
pence, and no more, you might buy a pint of it. Before this, 
however, there had been a great loss of life on both sides. 
There was not at that time in Scotland a castle — no, nor a waUacc's 
man, with the single exception of William Wallace — that did not ^'^^*" 
own Edward as lord and master. Trusting himself to track- 
less mountains and inaccessible islands, and the tried affection 
of his friends, he escaped from the pursuit of the English king 
and his partisans. Edward himself could not do otherwise than 
admire the immoveable spirit of the man, and made known to 
him by a messenger bearing a flag of truce that broad lands in 
Scotland, and in England too, should be his, if he would but 
own the English rule. To all this Wallace made but one 
answer : That never would he yield obedience to the English 
king. And when Edward got this answer he studied how he 
might compass his destruction in another way. To any who The betrayers 
would take him he promised the richest rewards in lands ; and ® ^ *^ 
after many had vainly laboured to take him, Odomar Valancy, 
at length, and John Menteith, a Scot by birth, and a knight 
who was held to be one of Wallace'^s most familiar friends, by a 
shameful stratagem seize him in the city of Glasgow, and with 
a great army lead him captive to England, and there, as the 
English chroniclers have it, they put him to death \ 

^ Wallace was executed at Tyburn, August 24, 1305. His sentence ran that 
his head should be fixed to London Bridge, and his quarters sent to the towns of 

204 JOHN MAJOR'S HISTORY [book iv. 

Wallace's con- At the first glance I must here condemn Wallace for a want 

toSct°o be^ ®^ foresight, in that he did not for a time use some dissimula- 

approved ; tion with Edward, even by receiving lands at his hand, that so 

he might shelter himself from the designs of his foes. Yet I 

yet, on the fancy that he cherished a hope of seizing an opportunity of 

bejiwtifiedr^ attacking the English, and driving them, as he had so often 

done already, out of the country. For he may have thought 

that a day would come when, wearied of English domination, 

the Scots, not unmindful of his ancient fame among them. 

An objection, would once more flock around him. But you will say : He 

ought with more prudence to have kept himself out of their 

and its answer, hands ; yet there is an ancient proverb, * Tliere is no enemy more 

deadly than the man of your own household ^ and in John 

Menteith, to whose two children he had stood godfather, he 

had the fullest confidence. Our chroniclers here tell a story 

The heaven- of how an English hermit was witness of several souls taking 

Wallace. their flight from purgatory to heaven, and how one of these 

was Wallace ; and as he marvelled much how this could be, 

seeing that Wallace had shed man's blood, he got for answer 

that it was in a just cause, and when fighting for his country's 

What is lawful freedom, that he had slain others. And indeed I do not forget 

in a just war. |.j^^^ j^ ^^^ ^^ lawful to fight when the cause is just ; but every 

war must give occasions of excesses of all kinds and of sins. 
Still, a true repentance will sift, as it were, all sins, and make 
them as if they had not been. I will not insist on the point 
whether in his resistance to Edward he acted aright. They 
tell of Wallace that he ever had these lines in his mouth, 
which he had learned as a boy from his teacher : — 

Tis sooth I say to thee, of all things freedom is the best. 
Never, my son, consent to live a slave. ^ 

About this William Wallace our chroniclers in the English 

tongue relate that he twice visited France. They tell of his hav- 

New feats done ing had a sea-fight with Thomas Longueville, a French pirate, 

^ ^' and John Lyn, an Englishman, and of many other notable 

Berwick, Newcastle, Stirling, and Perth. Fifteen shillings were paid to John 
de Segrave for the carriage of his body * ad partes Scotiae'. See Documents 
illustrative of the History of Scotland^ 1286-1306, Edin. 1870, vol. ii. p. 485. 

^ Dico tibi verum, libertas optima rerum ; 
Nunquam servili sub nexu vivito, fili. 


feats of his they make mention, which I reject as false ; and 
my rejection of them I base, firstly, hereon, that our Latin 
chroniclers relate nothing that he did of any mark after Varia 
Capella^, but give us to understand that he then went into 
hiding; and, in the second place, I reject them inasmuch as 
the French histories make mention of Scots of far less renown 
in war than Wallace, and say scarce one word about him. I 
conclude, therefore, that he never visited France. Now, should 
any one of the Scots, in spite of these considerations, go on 
obstinately to pin his faith to narratives of our own vernacular 
speech, and raise this objection — * Either all that the chroniclers The argumer 
relate concerning him is true, — or no single part of it is true, * 

part is true and part is false; now I cannot admit the 
second member of the proposition ; nor by parity of reasoning 
can I admit the third member of the proposition in all parti- 
culars ; therefore I am forced to admit the first "^ — this argument ^Yu^ ^^ ^ 
I proceed to refute almost in its own words, thus : * Either all 
that the chroniclers of the English relate about the Scots is 
agreeable to truth,-^-or no part of it, — or some part at least 
has a basis of truth.** I imagine that you will grant the third 
proposition only, and I give the objection the same turn as 
before *. Our Latin chroniclers, who wrote not long after the 
date of the event, could not be altogether silent as to this double 
journey to France, and all the deeds of valour that were done 
by Wallace ; and the same you may take for true about the 
IVench histories. There was one Henry, blind from his birth, 
who, in the time of my childhood, fabricated a whole book 
about William Wallace, and therein he wrote down in our 
native rhymes — and this was a kind of composition in which he 
had much skill — ^all that passed current among the people in 
his day. I however can give but a partial credence to such 
writings as these. This Henry used to recite his tales in the 
households of the nobles, and thereby got the food and clothing 
that he deserved. And again, not even everything that is 
written in Latin has a claim to infallibility, but only to a 
certain probability ; for some of the writings in that language 
are known to possess more, and others less, of authority. I am 
reluctant nevertheless to deny absolutely, on the ground of 

^ i,e. Falkirk (see p. 199). ^ et eundem ramum in objectione do. 


206 JOHN MAJOR'S HISTORY [book iv. 

such reasons as I have ventured to state, that he ever saw the 
shores of France. So much then let it suffice to have briefly 
said, in accordance with the demands of this present work, about 
the notable deeds of William Wallace ; for we have yet to tell 
the story of other men not inferior in renown to him, and we 
must not spend all our labour in the celebration of one man, 
however lofty his distinction. 

CHAP. XVI. — Of those famous theologians Richard Middleton and 
John Duns : likewise of the contest for the Scottish throne, and of the 
feats of the new kings of that country, 

Richard It was about this time that Richard Middleton, whom the 

French call *de Media Villa \ flourished. He spent much 
labour in the writing of four books of no slight merit upon 
the Sentences, with Quodlibets^ I forget at this moment 
whether he studied at Oxford or at Cambridge * ; but he was 
an English Briton. Near to him in date, only later, wrote 
John Duns, that subtle doctor, who was a Scottish Briton, 
for he was born at Duns, a village eight miles distant from 

John Durs England, and separated from my own home by seven or eight 

leagues only ^ When he was no more than a boy, but had been 
already grounded in grammar, he was taken by two Scottish 
Minorite friars to Oxford, for at that time there existed no 
university in Scotland. By the favour of those friars he lived 
in the convent of the Minorites at Oxford, and he made his 
profession in the religion of the Blessed Francis. As he was 
a man of the loftiest understanding and the keenest powers in 
debate, his designation of * the subtle' was fully justified. At 
Oxford he made such progress that he left behind him for the 
admiration of after ages a monumental work upon the Meta- 
physics and the four books of the Sentences. These writings 

1 * Quodlibets ' or * Quotlibets *, a name given to questions proposed for free 
discussion in the schools of theology. Middleton's ' Quodlibets ' were printed 
with the commentaries on the Sentences at Venice in 1509. He wrote also on 
the Epistles of St. Paul and the four Gospels. 

* At Oxford ; see a«/tf, p. 23, note ^. 

' Major's positive statement as to the birthplace of Duns Scotus may be 
admitted to have some value. Scotus is also claimed as a native of Ireland 
(Down), and of Northumberland (Dunstane). A monument was erected to 
his memory at Cologne in 15 13, with the following inscription : scon a me 




of his are commonly called the English or the Oxford work \ 

When he was afterwards summoned by the Minorites of Paris 

to that city, he produced there another set of lectures on the 

Sentences, more compendious than the first edition, and at the 

same time more useful. These lectures we have but lately 

caused to be printed with metal types*. In the end he went Death of the 

to Cologne, and there died while still a young man. SubUe Doctor 

After the death of Alexander the Third at Kinghom, there 
arose a doubtful and indeed inexplicable question as to the Controversy a 
right of succession to the kingdom. John Baliol, Robert J^gj^s^^ 
Bruce, and Hastings, each of them set forth his claim in law to 
the kingdom of the Scots ; but inasmuch as each had a large 
following in Scotland, the disentanglement of the legal claim 
was no easy matter. They remitted the question to Edward 
the First, the same whom men call Edward Longshanks, and Edward Long 
he gave judgment in favour of John BalioL The story goes ^^i^^ 
that this John promised that he would hold the kingdom of 
Scotland as from the English king. For three years then 
Baliol held supreme power among the Scots ; but as far as in 
him lay he permitted the subjection of Scotland to the English 
king, and, being otherwise of coward temper, the Scots drove 
him from his place, when he passed into France, and there went 
the way of all flesh. The story further goes that at the time Death of 
when Edward was in Scotland, and was there carrying every ^^°'^ 
thing at his pleasure, Robert Bruce had stirred up John Reid 
Gumming — [' hoc est rubrum Cumyngum] ', — for his complexion 
was sanguine — to lay claim to the kingdom ; for the Gumming 
iamily was among the most powerful among the Scots. Now 
Gumming, inasmuch as he knew that he had no good claim to 
urge in his own behalf, was reluctant to follow the counsels and 
persuasions of Bruce in this matter. He went further ; for he 
promised his support to Bruce, who had the clearest right to 
the throne, if only he would seize it for himself. 

1 opus Anglicanum sive Oxoniense. 

' 'quam lecturam chalcographis imprimendam hisce diebus dedimus'. Of 
this work the following editions are in the Bodleian library : (i) Qtustioms 
quodlibetales familiarissime nportate per Petrum Thataretum [more properly 
* Taiaretum *], fol. Par. 1519 ; (ii) Lucidissima commcntaria sive {jut vacant) 
reportata in qnatuor libros sententiarum et quodlibeta lo. Duns Scoti, etc., fol. 
Venet. 1607. Petrus Tataretus was a Paris doctor of theology ; and by Major's 
'we' (in 'dedimus') we may probably understand the theological faculty of 
Paris— or that he himself had a hand in it. 

208 JOHN MAJOR^S HISTORY [book iv. 

Now here, between our own and the English chroniclers, I find 
no trifling discrepancy of statement. The English chroniclers 
give forth that the family of the Cummings was completely loyal 
to the English rule, and that for this cause it was that John 
Gumming met his death at the hands of Bruce. Far different is the 
Scottish version of the story. For our chroniclers aver that by 
an authentic agreement in writing between Bruce and Gumming 
they had promised, each the other, to take or wrest by force 
the kingdom out of Edward'^s hands, and that this secret agree- 
ment was divulged by the Gummings to the English king. 
Another version of the story is this : that the wife of John 
Gumming, without her husband^s knowledge, declared the 
secret to the English king; while still others see reason to 
believe that its betrayal was due to John Gumming himself. 
But, however this may be, so much is certain, that when 
English Edward came to hear from the Gumming family of 
this most secret agreement, he aimed to compass the death of 
Robert Bruce, and would have succeeded in his endeavour had 
not Robert made his escape to Scotland. With all the speed 
he could, Robert bent his steps from London northward ; and 
when he had reached Dumfries, which is a town no long distance 
from the borders, he happened on John the Red Gumming in 
a convent of Minorite friars ; and there, and before the high 
altar — ^such was the fury of his anger — he struck John with his 
dagger, not thinking otherwise than that he had dealt him a 
mortal wound. It was about that time that William Wallace 
was led captive to I^ndon. 

Robert, when he had thus struck down the Gumming, 
left the church ; and thereupon two among his friends, 
the lord John Lindsay and the lord Roger Kirkpatrick, per- 
ceiving from the pallor of his face that somewhat had deeply 
moved him, asked him what then it was that he had done ; 
and when he had declared the whole matter to them in its 
sequence, they asked if the Gumming^s wound were mortal. 
To this he answered that indeed he knew not ; whereat they 
blamed him somewhat harshly, that in a thing of such 
moment, and where he had to deal with a man of this con- 
dition and standing, he had left aught in doubt. Instantly 
they enter the sacred building, and finding the Gumming on 
the ground behind the high altar, they ask him whether he 


thought he might yet recover. And when he had answered 
yes, that indeed he thought he might yet recover from his 
wound, if only they would fetch to him a skilful chirurgeon, 
these men barbarously slew him. This crime it was that gained 
for Robert Bruce the undying enmity of the powerful house of 
Gumming. But all the same, his friends remained true to him. 
He went to Scone, and there — though his action herein was by 
no means without danger to himself, seeing that he had against 
him the English king, the Cummings, the Baliols, the house 
of Hastings, and all their followers — he assumed the royal Robert Bmoe 
crown. He lost no time in sending to Rome to crave absolu- 
tion fromr the censure of the church that followed the homicide 
that had been committed in a church. But before I make the 
attempt duly to celebrate the achievements of Robert Bruce, I 
will strive to disentangle the intricate questions of law that are 
involved in the conflicting claims of himself and his opponents. 

CHAP. XVII. — Containing many reasons in support of the claim of 
Robert Bruee ; and, in preface to these, the whole issue of Malcolm 
down to the present king is given in full. 

Here it will be desirable to trace the claim of Robert Bruce Robert Bruce. 
from Malcolm Canmore ; for, from what has been said above, 
you will remember that there were born to Malcolm Canmore Malcolm Can. 
and his wife, English Margaret, six sons and two daughters. ™^'* * ***^** 
Three sons there were, whom I mention only to pass them by ; 
for they had no issue, and their lives were not otherwise note- 
worthy. Three sons in succession held the kingly power : 
Edgar, Alexander, and David ; but Edgar and Alexander died 
without issue. To David was bom one son only, that is, 
Henry earl of Huntingdon ; and this Henry begot three sons, 
to wit, Malcolm, William, and David ; but he predeceased his 
father. On the death of David, his grandson Malcolm suc- 
ceeded him, ruled the Scots for twelve years, and died unmar- 
ried : to him succeeded his brother William, who was father to 
Alexander the Second ; and this Alexander the Second was 
father to Alexander the Third by Margaret queen of Scotland, 
who was sister to king Edward. To Alexander the Third 
were born two sons, but they died both of them without issue. 


210 JOHN MAJOR'S HISTORY [book iv. 

The third Alexander had likewise one daughter, Margaret by 

name, who married the king of Norway ; and to him she bore 

an only daughter, Margaret also by name, who died before 

she had arrived at marriageable years. And with this daughter 

came to an end the direct succession in the line of actual 

monarchs, that is, from Malcolm Canmqre and his queen, 

Margaret of England. 

David of Hunt- It remains, therefore, to retrace our steps in search of the 

JScrat, waa^ nearest rightful heir to the kingdom, and him we find in that 

never king. David of Huntingdon who was never king ^. But to this David 

^ The subjoined table of descent will show at a glance what Major's state- 
ment is. Isabella, however, who married Robert Bruce was the second daughter 
of David earl of Huntingdon, and not, as Major here says, the third daughter. 
In ch. xiii. of this Book he rightly says — though without naming her — that the 
third daughter of David earl of Huntingdon (i,e, Ada) married Hastings. By 



Edgar, King, Alexander i., King, David i.. King. Three sons. Three daughters. 

Henry, Earl of Huntingdon 

(predeceased his father). 

Malcolm iv. 

, King. 

William [the Lion], King. 

II. = Margaret, sister of 
Edward i. of England. 

Alexander in. 


Two sons. 

Margaret, — King of Norway. 


this Henry de Hastings she was mother of that Henry de Hastings who was 
father to John de Hastings (competitor). Ada and her descendants, since they 
are not here mentioned by Major, are not included in the pedigree now given. 

Henry de Hastings claimed that the succession should be divided between the 
descendants of the three daughters as co-heiresses. Edward the First decided 
in favour of Baliol on the ground of seniority of descent as against Robert Bruce, 
and dismissed the claim of Hastings, because the crown, like other titles or 
honours, was indivisible. For reasons in favour of the view that Marjory was 
the daughter and not the sister of Darvargilla, and that Wyntoun's statement, 
book viii. line 1264, is an error, see Macpherson's notes, in Laing's Wyntoun^ 
vol. iii. p. 278. 




were bom three daughters : the eldest of them, Margaret, he 
gave in marriage to Alan, earl of Galloway, and to this Alan 
she bore three daughters, the eldest of whom, by name Darvar- 
gilla, was married to the lord John Baliol. Of this union the 
issue was one son, John by name, who afterwards, by arbitral 
decree of Edward, was created king of Scotland. This Baliol 
king was father to Edward Baliol, who afterwards won the day 
at Dupplin, and with Edward Baliol dies away the Baliol name. 
The second daughter of Darvargilla was Marjory, whom John 
Gumming had in marriage ; to him she bore John the Red Gum- 
ming, the same whom Robert Bruce slew at Dumfries. To the 
same John Gumming, too, Marjory bore an only daughter, whom 
David earl of Athole had to wife. By her earl David had 
several sons, who have naught to say to our present investiga- 
tion. David earl of Huntingdon had yet a third daughter, 
namely Isabella, who was married to the lord Robert Bruce, 
and by her he had one son, also named Robert. This Robert 
was father to Robert earl of Garrick ; and he in turn was 

of Huntii 

David, Earl of Huntingdon. 

Margaret, == Alan, Earl of Galloway. 
Darvargilla, = John Baliol. 

Isabella, = Robert Bruce. 
Robert Bruce, Competitor. 

John Baliol, Competitor 
and King. 

Marjory, == John Camming. Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick. 

Edward Baliol, Jonn, the Daugnter, 

Red Cumming. m. David, 


Earl of Athol. 

Sister of = Robert Bruce, King. 
Earl of Mar. 


Marjory, = Walter, Steward of Scotland. 
Robert ii., == daughter of Adam Mure. 

Robert iii. 

James i. 

James ii. = Mary of Guelders. 




James in., = Margaret of Alexander, Duke of John, Earl of Daughter, = Lord 




Mar, s.p. 


James iv., = Margaret, Two sons, John, Duke of Son. Daughter, = Stewart 

daughter of s, /. Albany, Regent Earl of 

Henry vii. Lennox. 

James v. 



[book IV. 

rhe duke of 

father to king Robert, and had other sons and daughters. But 
Robert the king, before he came to the throne, and when he 
was earl of Carrick, took to wife the sister of Garthen earl 
of Mar, by whom he had an only daughter, named Marjory. 
Walter, steward of Scotland, had her to wife, and to him she 
bore an only son, who became king Robert the Second. This 
second Robert, before he came to the throne ^, had formed an 
irregular alliance with one of the daughters of Adam Mure, a 
soldier, and afterward, by a dispensation, he made her his 
wife, and by her had Robert, the third of the name. This 
Robert the Third was father to James the First ; and James 
the First begot James the Second. James the Second had to 
wife Mary, daughter of the duke of Guelders, who bore to him 
three sons and two daughters. Of these the eldest son became 
James the Third ; the second, Alexander, became duke of 
Albany ; the third, who died without issue, was John earl of 
Mar. The duke of Albany, however, married a wife in France, 
from Auvergne, by whom he had John, who at this present is 
regent in Scotland. A sister of James the Third was married 
to the lord Hamilton, and she bore to him a son and a daughter, 
who are now living. The daughter became wife to Stewart 
earl of Lenox. James the Third had to wife Margaret, daughter 
to the king of Norway, by whom he had James the Fourth and 
that king's two brothers. These brothers, however, left no 
issue. James the Fourth had to wife Margaret, daughter of 
Henry the Seventh, the English king, and by her he had issue, 
of whom one only survives, James the Fifth to wit, a boy of 
six years ^. Such then is the genealogy of the Scottish kings. 
Whence it follows that John duke of Albany is next heir to 
James the Fifth, and next heir to John is that Hamilton whose 
grandson is earl Lenox, Stewart by name, and he has brothers 
and sisters, 
lie question of From this I think it is in part plain to which among the 
evolved. three claimants the right of succession appertained. In behalf 

of Robert Bruce this argument is adduced : He was bom before 
John Baliol. But against this we have the following no way 
contemptible argument : Either the mother of John Baliol or 

ames the 

ames the 

^ Iste rex de facto. 

• This fixes the date of the writing of this part of Major's History as 1 518. 


the mother of Robert Bruce was heir to the throne of Scot- 
land ; and whichever of these was heir, to her her son succeeds. 
And I will take my stand, not only on the mothers of the rival 
claimants, but will go further, to the three daughters of David 
earl of Huntingdon, and ask which of these was heiress of the 
Scottish crown, or would have succeeded to it had she lived, 
since the child succeeds to the parent deceased, as it would to 
the parent had he lived. But leaving this dispute, which seems 
to have given some colour to the judgment of king Edward, 
I state my conclusion thus : Robert Bruce alone and his heirs 
had and have an indisputable claim to the kingdom of Scot- 
land. This conclusion I do not rest upon the fact that Robert The ™^ntfesi 
had priority to John by way of birth, but upon another argu- Bruce to the 
ment, and it is this : John Baliol, born of the elder daughter, |j^f^^d.°^ 
departing from his just rights, and relinquishing his whole 
claim to Edward of England, showed himself thereby unfit to 
reign, and justly was deprived of his right, and of the right 
inhering in his children, by those in whom alone the decision 
vested. Now this decision vested in the rest of the kingdom. 
Secondly, this argument may be used, to the same result : A The consent 

the people cft 

free people confers authority upon its first king, and his power make a new 
is dependent upon the whole people ^ ; for no other source of "^' 
power had Fergus, the first king of Scotland ; and thus you 
shall find it where you will and when you will from the begin- 
ning of the world. I say it was for this cause that the kings 
of Judaea were appointed by God. If you tell me that Henry 
the Eighth traces his claim to Henry the Seventh, I will mount 
up to the first of the English kings, and ask. Whence did he, 
then, derive his right to be king? and so would I proceed 
throughout the history of the world. And it is impossible to 
deny that a king held from his people his right to rule, inas- 
much as you can give him none other ^ ; but just so it was that 

* Cf. Bk. IV. ch. iii. 

- M. Charles Jourdain, in his * M^moire sur la royaute fran9aise et le droit 
populaire d'apres les ecrivains du moyen age* {Excursions historiques^ Paris, 
1888, p. 513") has collected a number of passages from the scholastic theologians 
which illustrate Major's doctrine on this subject. Scotus, among others {in Sent. 
lib. iv, disl. 15. qu. 2), seems to make the consent of the people the source of 
all political authority. John of Salisbury (d. 1 180), who held kings to be the 
representatives of divinity, and as such to be loved, venerated, and obeyed, 

214 JOHN MAJOR^S HISTORY [book iv. 

the whole people united in their choice of Robert Bruce, as of 
one who had deserved well of the realm of Scotland. Thirdly 
it may be argued, only to result in the same conclusion : A 
people may deprive their king and his posterity of all authority, 
when the king*'s worthlessness calls for such a course, just as at 
first it had the power to appoint him king. This is clear from 
a consideration of the fact that the kingly rule amongst the 
Romans had to give way to an aristocracy ; and Pepin king 
of the French was successor to another king who had been 
deposed. Fourthly it may be argued, in the same direction : 
In what concerns kings, that is to be done which most con- 
duces to the common weal. An instance in point would be 
where a country is attacked by a foreign foe, and where the 
king — we will call him A — cannot defend it, and even consents 
to its overthrow ; and another man — say B — comes to the 
rescue, snatches his country from the clutch of the invader, 
and holds it safe with his own right hand. A deserves to be 
deposed, and B deserves to be in his stead imposed. But just 
so was it in our own case : Igitui\ Fifthly it may be 
argued : John Baliol and the nobles of the realm ought to 
have been willing that Robert Bruce should bear rule ; there- 
fore Robert Bruce ought to have been no less willing to do so. 
The premiss of this argument is plain. They ought to have 
wished that that mystical body^ of which they were parts should 
endure intact and in good condition ; and this result could 
not have been attained but by the expulsion of John Baliol, 
and the institution of Robert Bruce to royal power : Ergo, 

nevertheless taught that if a king acted contrary to the law, and oppressed his 

subjects, he became a tyrant ; and he devotes an entire chapter to demonstrate 

that every tyrant is a public enemy, and that it is not only lawful but just and 

equitable to put him to death. Gerson, the chancellor of Paris (who would 

have been a high authority with Major), writes as follows in his Considerationes 

principibus et dominis utilissimae, Opp, t. iv. col. 624 : * It is a further error to 

hold that kings are emancipated from every obligation towards their subjects ; 

on the contrary, alike by natural and divine law, they owe to their subjects 

equity and protection. If they fail in this, if they act wiihlnjustice in regard to 

their subjects— above all, if they persevere in their iniquity, the time has come 

for the application of that law of nature : to meet force with force [vim vi re- 

pellcre]. Has not Seneca said that there is no victim more acceptable to God 

than a tyrant ? * For a further statement of Major's views see infra^ pp. 219, 220. 

1 Orig. and F. * Debebant velle illud quo corpus mysticum . . . maneret 

incolume '. ? For * illud quo * to read * quod illud '. 


Sixthly it is argued : It is leisome to a free people in a certain 
event to depose a king whose mere legal claim admits not of a 
doubt (this we have already shown), and to appoint as king 
one who has no such claim as this ; therefore, a fortiori, it is 
leisome in a like case to depose a king whose claim is ambigu- 
ous and to place upon the throne another whose claim is like- 
wise ambiguous. Now, just like this is the case which we 
have now under review : Igitur, Seventhly and lastly, this 
argument may be used : Whose it is to appoint a king, his it 
likewise is to decide any incident of a doubtful character that 
may arise concerning that king ; but it is from the people, and 
most of all from the chief men and the nobility who act for 
the common people, that kings have their institution ; it 
belongs therefore to princes, prelates, and nobles to decide as 
to any ambiguity that may emerge in regard to a king ; and 
their decision shall remain inviolable, fiut just thus was it 
with Robert Bruce, and then most of all when he had driven 
from the kingdom those who had been active disturbers of the 
kingdom'^s peace : Igitur. See then by what considerations 
we have cleared the way for the indubitable claim of Robert 
Bruce and his successors to the throne of Scotland. And if in 
addition he had a claim to urge as lineal successor, far be it 
from me to gainsay that claim ; but the reasons that I have 
adduced suffice, in my opinion, to demonstrate the conclusion 
just laid down. 

CHAP. XVIII. — Of the objections that may he urged against this 
conclusion, and their solution. 

But inasmuch as the solution of doubts is the manifestation 
of the truth, I will tabulate some arguments which may be 
advanced against the cogency of tlie conclusion that I have 
arrived at ; for that is the chief pillar of a conclusion. First of 
all, it is argued thus : The kings of England are superior to the First Argume 
kings of the Scots ; therefore Robert Bruce acted wrongly in 
the resistance that he made, and in driving the English out of 
Scotland. The premiss is doubly plain: first of all, because First proof oi 
the kings of the Scots very frequently did homage to the Eng- ^ ^ ^^^ce ci 
lish kings, and went to London ; and, secondly, John Baliol, proof. 



[book IV. 

Answer to 
the first. 

Answer of the 
second proof. 

who was the lineal descendant of the elder sister, made over 
his right : Igitur. 

First of all, I deny the premiss, and towards the proving 
of my point, where you say that the Scots did homage to the 
English, I make distinction of the proposition thus : They did 
this either in behalf of the counties of Huntingdon, Cumber- 
land, and Northumberland, and in this I am at one with you ; 
or they did so in behalf of the kingdom of Scotland, and this 
I deny. For when your Edward and the Scots, the while the 
Scottish throne was vacant, had been for a long time pleading 
their respective causes before the Roman pontiffs, and on both 
sides had produced what evidence they could muster, the pontiff 
gave judgment that in matters temporal the king of Scotland 
was subject to no one. So much is plain upon the very face of 
the matter ; but inasmuch as the Scots, all without a king as 
they then were, had no fancy to become Edward''s prey, they 
took action before the pontiff in behalf of the kings of Scotland 
as to those lands which of old they had held in England, to the 
end that they should be understood to do homage, mediately, 
in respect of those territories only. It is no wise expedient 
that kings do such homage as this in their own person. 

To the second objection I make twofold answer : this first — 
that what John Baliol did he did not of his free will, nor had 
he lawful right to the kingdom ; this secondly — that, granting 
him to have possessed indubitable legal right, and in the full 
exercise of his free will to have made over that right to the 
English king, such right would have been profitless to that 
king. For kings cannot thus, according to their own mere 
pleasure, divest themselves of their inherent right to their 
kingdom, and confer the same upon another. Whence it 
follows, that if the king of the French were to make grant of 
the land of France to the Great Turk, such grant would not 
hold. As a matter of fact, Charles the Sixth did make a grant 
of France to the English king; but, this notwithstanding, 
Charles the Seventh and the nobles of France prevented it from 
taking effect. For a king has not the same unconditional 
possession of his kingdom that you have of your coat^ 

^ Cf. Bk. III. ch. iii., where Major makes use of a similar illustration. 


Secondly, it is argued thus : It would have been more The Second 
profitable for the Scots to have been under English kings ; and Argument,— 
therefore Robert firuce acted wrongly in making the resistance 
that he did make. The premiss is plain: justice and good 
government are more firmly stablished in England than in 
Scotland ; and that advantage the Scots would have had under 
English rule \ 

And this argument is supported as follows: The people of itsconfinnation. 
Wales are in a better state under English rule than they would 
be under kings of Wales, as has been said above : therefore, 
the condition of the Scots would likewise have been better 
under English than under Scottish kings. 

Of this second argument I deny the conclusion. For though 
it were indeed of more advanti^e to the common weal that 
Sortes^ should have my house and furniture than that I should ?**^Jf^f^ ^^ 
have them, it does not therefore follow that I am under obliga- Ax^ment. 
tion to make them over to that person. But I would also wish 
to make distinction of the premiss itself, that it would have 
more advantage the Scots to have been subject to one king only 
than to several kings. The English king might have held 
Scotland by a just title, by marriage, or in some other lawful 
way ; and then I grant you your proposition ; — or he might 
have held it by violence and oppression, and such claim as this 
is to be denied, nor indeed is it likely to emerge. 

From all whicli I will now be bold enough to make this here- Propoation as 
following statement. There were formerly in Britain nine or of Britain. 
ten kingdoms, as is plain from discourse of history. The 
Scots now hold the kingdom of the Picts. The English hold 
Wales, and various of the old kingdoms among the English, 
small though these were ; and so it comes about that at this 
present there are two kingdoms and no more. It would be of 
the utmost advantage to both these kingdoms that they should 
be under the rule of one monarch, who should be called king of 
Britain, provided only that he were possessed of a just and honest 

* Cf. Bk. IV. ch. xii. p. 190. 

' ' Sortes ' is tlie name mo^t generally applied throughout Major's in Quartum 
Sententiarum to the imaginary figure in an illustration. It is Sortes, for instance, 
who lets the farm of Gleghomie to Plato — Plato being the name chosen where 
a second figure is required. For a woman, Berta is the most common name 
throughout the In Quartum, 

of war. 

218 JOHN MAJOR^S HISTORY [book iv. 

, title thereto ; and to gain this end I see no other means than 

by way of marriage ^ ; for the kings of eacli country ought to 

give their sons and daughters in marriage one to another, even 

though these were within forbidden degrees of kinship, for 

which the pontiff could grant a dispensation. And any man, 

be he Englishman or Scot, who will here say the contrary, he, I 

say, has no eye to the welfare of his country and the common 

good. For on such a footing only could both peoples live in 

peace one with another ; and only in time of peace can God, 

the Author of peace, be duly worshipped, and only at such a 

time can men give themselves to the practice of their religious 


The evils Consider for a moment the evils that are brought about by a 

state of warfare. When you find a strip of land whose exact 

boundary is uncertain, it is suffered to lie waste ; and even when 

the boundaries are known, to a distance of eight or nine leagues, 

the country is given up to fire and sword. Many noble men 

of both kingdoms meet their end by the sword, so that among 

some families of a combative temper you shall not find a single 

member who has died in his bed. Great too is the loss of all 

kinds that results when hostile galleys and other vessels meet 

.upon the sea ; great too the expense that is involved in the 

maintenance of armies, and the death that lags not far behind. 

Would it not then be well worth our while one day to put an 

end to all this ? And when by right of marriage any one — be 

he Scot or Englishman^-came to have a just claim to the 

kingdom, the man who should set himself in opposition to 

such a consummation would have much to answer for. And 

when it is borne in mind that the two nations are each of 

them proud, and confident in valour, I see not how, without 

the recognition of some just and undoubted title, such a happy 

solution can ever be attained. I do not forget that there are 

crafty men, more bent upon their private advantage than on 

the common weal, who will deny what I now affirm, and base 

their argument upon this or that sophistical reasoning. Such, 

for instance, are certain powerful Englishmen and Scots, who 

themselves aspire to the sovereignty, and therefore are unwill- 

* Cf. ante J P« 4i» 



iiig to have over them a king more firmly placed upon his 

throne, or who regard foreign kingdoms more with a view to 

their own private advantage than to that of the common weal, 

and feel that such a union would be to their own loss. As to Argument of 

the argument that may be drawn from the case of Wales, I confirmation. 

say that Wales and Scotland in this matter are not upon the 

same footing. For the English conquered the Welsh with 

ease, but not so the Scots, as the event proved ; inasmuch as 

for a long time these have dared to make manful resistance to 

the English, and on occasion have even not feared to carry the 

attack into the enemy"'s country. 

The third argument is this : If the whole people be above Arg. 3. 
the king, this conclusion follows, that at the will and pleasure 
of the people kings might be deposed, which would bring no 
little disaster on the state. The fourth argument is this : Any Arg. 4. 
private owner can sell his lands, or squander his holding, or 
make grant of his property to another ; therefore the king may 
do the same with his kingdom. The consequence holds; for when 
the opposite of the consequence is given along with the premiss, 
this conclusion follows, and "'tis far removed from the truth, in- 
asmuch as the king has not of his kingdom that full and fair 
possession which a private owner has of his own estate. 

Of the third argument I deny the consequence, for only Answer to th< 
with the greatest difficulty could kings be driven from their ^^nt^'^" 
kingdom ; for were it otherwise, you should have the state 
in continual disturbance from civil war, and "tis a harder 
thing than you think to rob a rightful king and his posterity 
of his kingdom. True it is, nevertheless, that men of old time 
have deposed their kings, and rightfully deposed them, for foul 
vices of which these showed no mind to be corrected. But if 
kings are any way corrigible they are not to be dismissed, for 
what fault you will; but then, and only then, when their 
deposition shall make more for the advantage of the state 
than their continuance. And when that happens men may 
begin to think of flying ; for unless under a solemn considera- 
tion of the matter by the three estates, and ripe judgment 
passed wherein no element of passion shall intrude, kings are 
not to be deposed. 

In answer to the fourth argument let it be said that the Answer to 

the fourth. 



[hook IV. 

Fifth Argu- 


conclusion is null. For the king is a public person, and alto- 
gether such in this manner, that he presides over his kingdom 
for the common weal and the greater advantage of the same. 
But when the reins of government are by his very touch defiled, 
when he shows himself a squanderer of public treasure, and 
brings his country to the verge of ruin, he is no longer worthy 
to rule. For he holds of his people no other right within his 
kingdom but as its governor. But of his own private property 
every man is himself the only manager and judge. 

Fifthly it is objected : In a real body the head has the pre- 
eminency over all the other members; therefore also in a 
mystical body the head is chief over all the rest of the 
members. It is answered : The conclusion is null ; for the 
proof from similars fails not, for the most part, to limp on its 
fourth foot. Now that we have, as it were, cleared of its 
surrounding husk the claim of Robert Bruce to the throne of 
Scotland, and made accurate statement of the same, not 
omitting the while to clear away those objections that may 
here and there be urged against it, it remains to declare his 
acts, and tell in what manner he bore himself as a monarch. 

CHAP. XIX. — Of the acts of Robert Bruce, king of Scollandf and 
the calamities which befell him. 

That man would need the strength of Atlas, or the power, 
like Daedalus, to wing a skiey flight, who should rightly tell 
the life of Robert Bruce ; but such an one being still to seek, 
I propose in a short compass — for indeed the time is wanting, 
and the leisure too — to sing this hero's life, tamely enough I fear. 

When Robert Bruce, with the help of his own friends, had 
taken his place upon the throne, there marched against him, 
in the thirteen hundred and sixth year from the Virgin's 
travail, on the nineteenth day of June, Odomar de Valence, 
guardian of Scotland, and at Methven met him in battle. 
He is defeated, wherein Robert was conquered and put to flight, though with 
the loss of few only among those who clave to him. This 
defeat the common people chose to look upon as an evil omen 
for Robert, and just as if he had been a man fated to bring 
ill luck, against whom Fortune had a spite, they utterly 

King Robert 


deserted him. He went thereafter to Athole and Argyll, and 

there lay for certain days in hiding ; but on the third day of the 

ides of August he was once more attacked by English and Scot 

alike, and chiefly by those of the Gumming family, and again 

suffered defeat and utter rout. At Dalary, however, he lost He is defeat© 

but few of his own following. To Saint Duthac ^, which is at * ^^^^ 

the furthest limit of Scotland in one direction, the queen, his 

wife, made her escape ; but she was there taken prisoner by His wife is 

William Gumming, carried by him to the king of England, *^®" pnsone 

and by that king kept in strict confinement till the time of 

the battle of Bannockburn. In the same year did Nigel Bruce, 

the king^s own brother, find a refuge, with a number of the 

nobles, in the castle of Kildrummie. But that castle by 

Scottish treachery fell into the hands of the English king, and 

Nigel Bruce, with many other men of mark, was carried to His brother 

Berwick, and there paid, he and all his fellows, the last penalty prifSn'o- and" 

of all. Thomas, too, and Alexander, brothers to the king, Jjj*"- 

, , , TDomas and 

were made captive at Lochryan, carried to Garlisle, and there Alexander, th 
beheaded. Without a brother, without wife, without any of J."^^g^^^ 
near kin to stand by him, the finger of scorn was on all sides 5|^"- 
pointed at the Scottish king. Plots were laid against his life is left desoiau 
by the English, by many among the Scots, and of these most 
of all by the party of the Baliols and the Gummings — and in 
such wise that, with the company of one or two faithful fol- 
lowers, he lived from day to day in forest or in thicket, with 
grass for food, with water for his drink instead of wine. A 
strange spectacle, surely, this — of a man with manifold kindred 
in England and in Scotland, the inheritor in both kingdoms of 
wide domains, destitute utterly of the comforts of existence. 
Many a time, I take it, must that hero have thought within 
himself, and said to himself, that he would have better con- 
sulted his own safety in leading the life of a private person 
than in the quest of a kingly throne by the doubtful issue of 
war. But in a situation so distressful he could not have held 
his lands securely, nor yet his life. Nothing therefore remained 
for him but to prosecute and establish his claim to the king- 
dom ; for to Edward of England and to the Gummings he had 
become so much an object of hatred that from them he could 

* t.e. Tain. 

222 JOHN MAJOR'S HISTORY [book iv. 

hope for no favour. Hunger, therefore, and thirst he bore, 
and toil and trouble, and sweat of battle, and all contempt 
and ignominy, with equal mind, or at least with patience, in 
the trust that Fortune could not remain his enemy for ever. 
Some men, and such was Priam, have happiness at the outset 
of life, and, at its close, misery ; but others again you shall 
find whose beginning is in adversity but their end in joy. This 
man, therefore, labours unweariedly with unconquered spirit 
to gain a kingdom. Some have affirmed that these hardships 
at the outset befel him in punishment for his slaying of the 
Gumming in a church. 

But in the following year, when he was in exile among the 
island Scots, when his spirit revived under the kindly care of a 
cei'tain noble, he took the determination to regain somewhat 
of his lands, or lose his life in the attempt. First of all, then, 
he made for his native soil of Carrick, and there gained posses- 
sion of one strong fortalice, whose garrison he slew, dividing 
the spoil among his followers, and summoning his friends, all 
he could. Thence he sought the northern parts of Scotland. 
He took by storm the castle of Innymes or Invemes, razed it 
to the ground, and left no single member of its garrison alive ; 
and so he passed through the northern parts. But a little 
later in the same year John Gumming, earl of Buchan, gathers 
together a force of Englishmen and Scots, and marches against 
Robert Bruce. When they perceived, however, that the king 
showed a fearless front, they make a truce on both sides for a 
while. About the same time Simon Fraser, Walter Logan, 
knights both, and many other fighting men, were taken to 
London, where they suffered the penalty of death. At the 
hands of the Cummings too, and John Mowbray, a Scot, and 
the English, Robert Bruce suffered many an insult ; but so 
unwearied was he, and of so stout a heart, in his resistance, 
that his name and fame grew brighter for the dark days that he 
had passed through, and his valour stood forth always more 
shining and conspicuous to all. Edward of England, there- 
fore, brought together a large army, meaning to drive Robert 
Death of Bruce forth from Scotland ; but as he drew near the Scottish 
borders he fell sick, and so went the way of all flesh. 

This Edward Longshanks reigned for five-and-thirty years. 



About this matter our chroniclers have several things to say : 
this, for instance, tliat a certain gentleman, by name William 
Banister, saw the soul of king Edward being carried down 
to hell ; and they have many evil things to say of Edward. 
For myself, I do not place much trust in this sort of fabri- 
cation. It is not of yesterday that I have observed how it is 
the custom of the vulgar Scot to say nasty things about the 
English ^, and contrariwise. Love and hatred have this in 
common : that alike they tend to becloud and blind our 
intelligent judgment of things, and give an erroneous and 
even perverse interpretation of actions the most excellent, 
when these are the work of the other side. Now it behoves 
every man, and most of all a priest, to rid himself of this 
pestilent habit, and to weigli in equal scales whatever comes 
before him for judgment. Otherwise such an one is unworthy 
of confidence ; and in the present instance it will be our 
duty to pass by what is improbable as if it were untrue. In 
some things, nevertheless, I do indeed find Edward worthy of Edward is 
censure, inasmuch as, when he had been chosen by the Scots as c®"'"''^- 
their neighbour at once and umpire in an abstruse point of 
law regarding the succession to tlie throne, he acted wrongly 
in using this occasion for his own special advantage, in sowing 
amongst the Scots the seeds of civil war, nay, in giving all 
care that these same seeds should come to maturity, to the 
end that when the opposing parties had worn out each of 
them the strength of the other, or perchance using for himself 
the support of one of them, he might obtain the kingdom. 
Now what is truly profitable is ever inseparable from the 
truly moral. From what had taken place in the past it might 
have been guessed that some day or other, when hatred of the 
English rule had reached a certain pitch among the Scots, 
they would drive the English out of the country, and that one 
day would thus bear witness to the fruitless sweat of many a 
hard-won battle. But whatever his wrongful deeds, all might 
have been cancelled by penitence at the last, had he shown an 
efficacious intention to make sufficient restitution. But whether 
he did this, or whether, on the plea of invincible ignorance, 
he is to be excused for not having done so — seeing that he may 

* Cf. Bk. I. ch. vii. p. 40. 

224 JOHN MAJOR^S HISTORY [book iv. 

have honestly believed his advisers when they told him that he 
himself held of John Baliol the right of succession to the Scot- 
tish kingdom, and therefore was under no obligation to make 
restitution for the injuries wrought upon the Scots — all this I do 
not discover to be made out clearly, either one way or the other. 
Merlin's Last of all, I note that Caxton makes mention of a pro- 

prop ecy. pi^^y ^f Merlin'*s about this same Edward. For English 
Merlin, who was a seer, used to say that one day there should 
sit upon the throne a dragon pitiful and brave, who should open 
his mouth over Wales, and plant upon Wyk his foot. All this 
they claim to have found fulfilment in Edward ; he conquered 
Wales, and by Wyk the English understand Berwick to be sig- 
nified. For my part, I grant his courage — to the point of 
fierceness ; of his clemency I see but slight indications. By 
Wyk I should rather be inclined to understand Wick in Caith- 
ness, the outmost boundary of Scotland. Merlin says further 
that this dragon would place a kingly crown upon the head of a 
greyhound, who afterward, from fear of the dragon, should fly 
beyond sea. This they explain of Edward and John Baliol, 
though they show no reason for likening Baliol to a grey- 
hound ^. Merlin'^s prophecy about this same dragon went 
further thus : that the greyhounds should long be bereaved 
of father and shepherd, that in those days the sun should be 
blood-red ; that the dragon should rear a fox, which should 
make war against Edward, and that this war should not reach 
an end in Edward'^s days. In Edward''s days there was a 
mighty shedding of blood, and for a long time the Scots 
lacked a king. The fox they interpret to mean Robert Bruce. 
But it is a certain fact that Robert Bruce was at the first a 
partisan of Edward, though he was born in Scotland, for he held 
large domains in both kingdoms of the Britons ; and though at 
the first he was a favourer of Edward, yet in the end, and with 
just title, he rebelled against him. It does not therefore appear 
how he may be compared to a fox. But as to these prophecies, 
my treatment shall be here, as elsewhere, dry and meagre. 

^ We may recall, however, that Baliol, during his captivity in England, found 
his chief amusement in hunting. His establishment then consisted of two 
esquires, one huntsman, a barber, a chaplain, a steward, a butler, a washer- 
woman, a seamstress, etc.; and he had at least two greyhounds {leporarii) and 
ten hounds. — See Rev. J. Stevenson's Documents^ etc., vol. i. p. xlviii. 


CHAP. XX. — OJ Edward the Second, king of the English ; and of 
the manner of waging war among the Britons. 

On the death of Edward the First, whom our countrymen Edward the 
commonly call Edward Longshanks, there succeeded him ^^^'. ^ca 
Edward the Second (that is, he was the second Edward after narvon *. 
the conquest by the Normans). Him they also name * of 
Carnarvon', seeing that he was bom in a certain castle of 
Wales which is called Carnarvon; and for this reason he is 
called Edward of Carnarvon. In the thirteen hundred and 
seventh year from the redemption of the world he received in 
marriage Isabella, daughter to the French king. He was 
entirely under the influence of Peter Gavaston, a Gascon ; and Peter Gavastc 
the demeanour of this Peter therefore reached, and easilv 
reached, such a pitch of haughtiness that he came to hold the 
chief men of the kingdom in contempt. These men, then, 
pursued him with their hate, and at London they forced the 
king to banish him the country. The king sent him, there- 
fore, to the island of Ireland, and granted him full vice-regal 
power in that part of it which was under English occupation. 
A little time after he recalls him into England. Whereat 
those noblemen were enraged not a little, chief amongst them 
Thomas earl of Lancaster and the earl of Warwick, and they 
behead Peter. But Caxton says that this Edward gathered Caxton. 
together a great army wherewith to invade Scotland, and in 
the thirteen hundred and fourteenth year of the Lord came to 
Stirling. Him Robert Bruce met on a certain plain, and there victory of 
Edward suffered defeat ; and many noteworthy Englishmen Robert Bruce, 
fell on that day. This battle was fought on the feast of John 
Baptist. With the remnant of his army Edward made for 
Berwick, and afterward for London. But in the following Lent 
the Scots capture Berwick from the English. About this 
time two cardinals arrived from Rome in Britain, with the 
hope of establishing a peace between the kings of Britain. 
When they were near to Durham, these cardinals were robbed 
of all they carried with tliem by Gilbert Mitton, an English 
knight. This man, therefore, was beheaded and quartered, 
and the four parts of his body sent to the four chief towns of 

226 JOHN MAJOR'S HISTORY [book iv. 

the kingdom. About the same time the Scots ravaged all 
Northumberland \ gave every village to the flames, slew the 
men, nay, young men and women too they slew with every 
circumstance of cruelty. In despoiling of churches they 
showed themselves brutal and sacrilegious. Moved thereat, 
John the Twenty-second ^, the Roman pontiff, sent the censures 
of the church to the archbishops of Canterbury and York, to 
the end they should fulminate the same against the Scots. 
Scotland they then subjected to an interdict, and one day or 
other they excommunicated those three men : Robert Bruce, 
Thomas Randolph, and James Douglas, with all their follow- 
ing, until they should make satisfaction for the losses and 
calamities that the English had suffered at their hands. It 
followed that many good priests in Scotland, who refused to 
celebrate divine service at the bidding of the king, were put 
to death. And these punishments were most of all inflicted 
because the Scots did not recognise Edward the Englishman 
as their superior. So far Caxton. 
The indepen- Some of what this man says is false ; some of it is improb- 
^^c«of the q}jIq^ The Scots have at no time recognised the English king 
as their superior ; and so much was plainly set forth by John 
the Twenty-second. I cannot lightly grant that the Scots put 
to death youths, women, and men unfit for war, for that is to me 
improbable, and most of all that such things should have been 
done by those illustrious and most magnanimous men ; since 
never, in my opinion, for the last five hundred years, has the 
other kingdom in our island produced three men more re- 
nowned than these. Though Englishmen and Scots alike 
wage war even in the present day in wild and fiery fashion, 
such deeds as these are unknown amongst them. All the 
more must they have been foreign to those valiant men. And 
if indeed they acted as Caxton affirms of them, I condemn 
them and abhor them for such wickedness. From such prac- 
tices even civilised heathen are wont to abstain. Tis the part 
of brave and magnanimous men to spare the conquered and 
beat down the proud \ If one were to assert the same of the 

^ ' toke and bore Englysshe mennes goodes as they had been saiasyns or 
paynyms.' — Caxton, u,s,, fo. Ixxxix. 

' 'he was wonders sory that Christendom was so destroyed through the 
Scottes.' — /5. ' Virgil: Aen. vi. 854. 


Highland and island Scots, when they had received provocation, 

I could not lightly contradict him ; but these men are very 

rarely taken out in war, for if they find in the southern parts 

of the country a man who speaks English, they are but too 

ready to seize his goods as their own; nor are they well- 

afFected toward us on account of our English speech and 

customs unlike their own. Hence it comes to pass, that only 

in case of necessity, and under the eye of most watchful 

generals, are they ever permitted to march against the English, 

and all because of the quarrels that arise and the crimes that 

they commit, in going and returning. The fact is, that in 

actual warfare the southern Scots show themselves no less 

humane than the English ; for they do not rob women of their 

ornaments or their rich apparel, and if any among them should 

have been guilty of such an attempt, they are restrained by 

the nobles. One thing more I will add : that though, when 

the combat is still going on and its issue remains doubtful, 

Britons of different kingdoms fight fiercely one with another, 

the victor ever shows himself of a singular clemency towards Clemency o 

the conquered, and this is so even though he have received much towardsa* 

provocation. But in this devastation of Northumberland, in ~"^^*«"«**^" 

my opinion, Edward the First inflicted the most severe losses 

upon the Scots, and under him many thousands of Scots came 

by their death. He robbed them of their kingdom and of all 

that they possessed, relying upon the help of wicked men 

among the Scots ; nor did he make any reparation to the Scots 

for the losses that he brought upon them ; and the Scots 

could not compass justice or other restitution ; therefore was 

it leisome that they should win justice for themselves and by 

their own hands. 

CHAP. XXI. — Of the war which the Scots waged against Edward 
the Second atid its happy result; likewise of the learned men who at thai 
time flourished in Britain. 

On account of the defeat which had been inflicted on his The deeds of 
nation by the Scots, Edward the Second gathered a huge army, i^^** 
and therewith invested Berwick, a boundary town and of the 
strongest. When the Scots were ware of this they secretly 
invaded England on the western boundary, by the Solway, and 



[book IV. 


Slaughter of 
the English. 



inflicted immense losses on the English ; they laid waste all Eng- 
land as far as York. York is distant from the Scottish boun- 
dary some fifty leagues or a little more. Now against those 
Scots the English brought together at York a very large army, 
to the making of which there went clergy, and common people, 
and nobles ; and there was fought there, upon the twelfth day 
of October, the battle of Myton Upswale^, in which the English 
were defeated ; and of all the Englishmen in that army scarce 
one was found that escaped ; for either, seeking safety in the 
river, they were drowned, or they fell by the sword of the 
Scots. Thereafter the Scots returned without loss to their 
own country ; nor did Berwick fall into the hands of Edward. 
Think, then, how the English historian whom we are tracking 
recounts the story of those times, in a narrative most impro- 
bable, which I can do naught but censure and reject. 

About that time there flourished in England divers learned 
men, two of whom — to wit, William Ockham* and Walter 
Hurley ^ — had learned under the Subtle Doctor. For Ockham 

^ Commonly known as the * Chapter of Mitton *, or, according to Caxton, 
called by the Scots ' the whyte batayle ', from the number of clerics engaged in 
it. Barbour {TAe Brus, cxxix.) writes of 

' Archaris, burges, and yhemanry, 
Prestis, clerkis, monkis, and freris, 
Husbandis, and men of all misteris, 
Quhill that tha sammyn assemblit war 
Wele tuenty thousand men and mar ; 
Richt gud arming eneuch tha had. 
The archbischop of York tha mad 
Thar capitane. • • • 
Of tha yhet thre hundreth war 
Prestis that deit intill that chas ; 
Tharfor that bargane callit was 
The chaptour of Mytoun, for thar 
Slane sa mony prestis war.* 

3 Cf. ante, p. 24 note, and note > on p. 229. 

s Walter Burley, a voluminous commentator on Aristotle, was bom about 
1275, died 1357. Nearly twenty separate editions of his philosophical treatises 
were published before the end of the fifteenth century. His writings were 
famous throughout Europe. Of his Ethics two editions were printed at Venice 
in the fifteenth century, and the same work was one of the first books printed 
at Oxford (15 17), where it seems to have been used as a text-book at least till 
the year 1 535. One of his most popular works was the De Vita et moribus 
philosophorum^ first published in 1467, and frequently reprinted and translated. 


was a man of keen intellect ; and albeit Altisiodorensis ^ and 
Bonaventure* make mention of the Nominalists, yet before 
Ockham we read of not one who was profoundly conversant 
with this way. On the four books of the Sentences he wrote 
as many books, — on the first book, indeed, he wrote at length. 
The older writers in this line, and notably the Subtle Doctor, 
he attacked, yet did he ever hold the latter in high veneration, 
as appears from what he writes in the second distinction of his 
first book and in other places. So true is it that these and 
such like fair debates of the schools have their origin in no 
unfriendly feeling, but rather, and simply, in the delight of 
intellectual exercise. In his Dialogues, which contain much 
that touches the supreme pontiff and the emperor, he lays down 
no final conclusions, but leaves all to the judgment of his 
hearers ^. Ockham came from England with the Subtle Doctor 

^ This now almost forgotten theologian, William of Auxerre (died about 
1230) was held in the highest estimation by Major, who in his In Quartum 
(Dist. XX. qu. 2) speaks of him as 'gravis et antiquus theologus Guilielmus 
Altisiodonis *, and constantly quotes him as a primary authority by the side 
of Alexander Hales, Aquinas, Scotus, and Bonaventure. William was born at 
Auxerre (whence his appellation of Altisiodorensis — Autissiodurum being the 
Roman name of Auxerre), became archdeacon of Beauvais, and professed 
theology at Paris. His principal work was the Sumina Aurea in quaiuor libros 
Sententiarum, a second edition of which was printed at Paris in 1500 and a third 
in 1518. A fourth edition was apparently published at Venice in 1 591. William 
of Auxerre was the first theologian who drew the distinction between the matter 
and the form of the sacraments. A characteristic of his theological system (for 
an account of which see Hist, Litt, de la France^ vol. xviii. pp. 1 15-122) was the 
prominence he gave to Faith as the chief merit of a Christian, maintaining that 
orthodoxy is a virtue superior to charity, and that salvation is better guaranteed 
by beliefs than works. 

* John de Fidenza, better known as Saint Bonaventure, cardinal, bishop^ 
and doctor of the Church, was born in Tuscany in 124 1, and died in 1274 while 
assisting at the Council of Lyons. He wrote commentaries on Scripture and 
many works of devotion as well as dogmatic theology, the character of which 
obtained for him the title of ' Doctor Seraphicus \ The best edition of his col- 
lected works is that published at Lyons in 1668, in seven volumes. 

' The Rev. John Owen, author of Evenings with the Skeptics^ has been good 
enough to point out to me that Major's language as to Ockham*s position — 
* nihil definitive ponens, sed omnia auditorum judicio relinquens * — is far from 
justified. Quoting from Ockham 's Dialogue Super Potestate Summi PontifidSy 
as contained in vol. ii. of Goldast's Monarchia^ Mr. Owen shows that (p. 864) 
Ockham holds that the Rock, in Matt. xvii. 18, refers not to Peter, but to Christ, 
and insists that neither the * Feed my sheep ' nor the * Thou art Peter * sane- 

230 JOHN MAJORS HISTORY [book iv. 

Buriey. to Paris ; Germany holds the bones of both^. Burley published 
commentaries upon the books of the Ethics which are by no 

Adam. means to be despised. Of the same date was Adam Godhame, 
who heard Ockham make his responses at Oxford; a modest 
man he was, but no way inferior to Ockham in learning or in 
power of intellect *. 

But lest this fourth book of ours should swell beyond its 
predecessors, we will reef our sails ; and just as our third book 
came to an end with the narrative of the Blessed Thomas of 
Canterbury, so will we wind up our fourth with a tribute to 
these learned Englishmen. <And just as we ended our first 
two books with an account of the doings of British Scots, so 
let these two end with somewhat concerning British English- 
men ^ 

tions any authority of place or function in respect of other Apostles. Further 
(p. 871), all secular powers are from God, for the terror of the evil and praise of 
the good ; (p. 872) it is expedient that all powers, ecclesiastical as well as 
secular, should be under secular rule ; and (p. 900) the Pope is subject to the 
Emperor wholly in secular, partly in sacred matters. He can have no other 
superiority than Christ and His Apostles had under the Roman Empire. 

In his masterly treatise on Ockham *s principles {Evenings with the Skeptics, 
vol. ii. pp. 339-420) Mr. Owen remarks that, * like the free thinkers of the 14th 
century, Ockham was a thorough-going Erastian ' ; while M. Haur6au {Hist, 
de la Phil. Scol. ) describes the ' Dialogus ' as a ' revolutionary pamphlet '. It is 
true that Ockham professes not to give conclusions so much as materials for 
forming them, and reserves his ultimate decision on the papal controversies for 
a further treatise, which in fact never appeared ; but his own judgment is 
throughout unmistakeable. Luther, who eagerly studied Ockham, speaks of 
him as *■ undoubtedly the chiefest and most ingenious of scholastic doctors *, and 
in his Table Talk (Bell's translation, ed. 1652, p. 354) calls him *an under- 
standing and a rich sensible man '. 

^ Scotus died at Cologne (as has been said, p. 206), Ockham at Munich, pro- 
bably in 1347. 

' Adam Goddam, Godham, or Woodham, a Franciscan monk (died 1358) 
resided chiefly at Oxford, Norwich, and London. Pits calls him ' a man of 
blameless life, great gravity, acute intellect, and profound judgment*. His 
Commentary on the Sentences, or an abridgment of it by Henry Oyta, printed 
at Paris in 15 12, was edited by Major himself, who prefixed to it a brief life of 
the author. Major, who had almost as high an opinion of Godham as of 
Ockham, institutes in his * De vita Ade ' an elaborate and amusing comparison 
between the two theologians. See Appendix. There have been attributed to 
Godham other works in MS., some commentaries on Scripture, treatises on the 
Sacraments, etc. 

^ * Et ita ut duos primos libros in Scotis Britannis absolvimus : sic hos duos 
in Anglis Britannicis claudemus. ' 


CHAP. 1. — Of the rest oj the warlike deeds of Robert Bruce and 
hU brother done against the English ; and of the unwise treaty thai ivas 
made at Stirling. 

In the thirteen hundred and eighth year from that of the 
Virgin's travail, Donald of the Isles marched against Robert 
Bruce with a large army made up of Englishmen and Wild Scots, 
and at the river Dee unfurled a hostile standard. Against 
him went forth Edward Bruce, brother to Robert Bruce, 
a man of strenuous energy in war, and Edward fought with 
him, and conquered him, and took him prisoner when he was Donald of the 
in act to fly. In the following year Robert Bruce conquered pH^^. 
the Wild Scots of Argyll and laid siege to their chief, Alex- 
ander of Argyll, in the castle of Dunstaffnage. He was 
forced to surrender the castle to the king, but he refused to Alexander of 
take the oath of fealty. For himself, however, and his coi^uered. 
followers he besought a safe-conduct from the king, so that he 
might thus make his way to England, and there he ended his 
thenceforth inactive life. Wretched surely may that man be His death. 
deemed who cliose rather to wait for death in a foreign country 
than to take and bear what life might bring under his own 
true king. In the following year, after he had driven many of 
the English out of Scotland, the king won over to his own side 
a large force among the Scots. In the year thirteen hundred 
and twelve he besieged and took the town of Perth, and put to 
the sword the rebels, whether Englishmen or Scots, that he 
found there. In the same year was born Edward the Third, 5?^!^?^ 
called of Windsor. On Quinquagesima Sunday ^ of the 
following year James Douglas took the castle of Roxburgh. 
In the same year Thomas Randolph, earl of Moray, took 

^ * in carnisprivio *. * Camisprivium ' or * carniprivium ' was the name given 
to the Sunday which preceded the Lenten fast ('ante cames tollendas*) — i,e, 
to Quadragesima Sunday before the ninth century, and to Quinquagesima after 
that date. Hence the terms * camisprivium vetus * and * carnisprivium novum*. 
' Inter duo carnisprivia * was sometimes used to designate the interval between 
the two Sundays. — De Mas Latrie : Trisor dc Chronologic, 

282 JOHN MAJOR'S HISTORY [book v. 

Maidens' Maidens' Castle, that is, Edinburgh; and yet again in that 

same year Robert Bruce brought the island of Man under his 
sway. And two years thereafter, according to our chroniclers 
— three years thereafter if we take the English reckoning, — 

Bannockburn. there followed the great battle of Bannockbum \ 

There is a small stream or large bum that falls into the 
noble river Forth. Upon this bum are situated mills, wherein 
are sometimes baked cakes upon embers, which they call 
^bannocks'; wherefore that bum has come to be called 
Bannockburn. We have in a former part of our history ^ made 
mention of the fact that our common people are so ignorant as 
to be ashamed of such a food, though in the sacred scriptures, 
and in profane histories as well, we read of it in many con- 
nections that are far indeed from being dishonourable. 

Stirling Castle. The source and seed-plot of this fateful war was on this 
wise : Edward Bruce, brother to the king, had laid siege to the 
strongly fortified castle of Stirling; and he found himself 
unable to take it by storm, inasmuch as the castle is situated 
on the brow of a hill, and at its very edge, so that the only access 
is by a steep slope. It is distant too a bare two hundred paces 
from the Forth, the Scottish firth. I imagine that this castle 
was built by those Britons whose country is now occupied by 
the Welsh. I am of opinion too that the pound sterling had 

The pound its first origin and likewise its name from this castle *. This 

place was held, at the time of which we are speaking, by Philip 
Mowbray, a Scot of high repute as a soldier, wlio Iiad attached 
himself to the English side. With Philip, Edward Bruce made 
an agreement on these terms: that if the castle were not 
relieved by Edward of Carnarvon before the following year, he 
should freely deliver it into the hands of the Scots. Now when 
Robert Bruce came to know of this, he was sore displeased, 
and with reason ; for he said that the agreement to which his 
brother had assented was indeed of the most imprudent, and 
he made haste to join his brother. And there was reason for 
his view ; for you must consider that English Edward, with the 

^ Bannockburn was fought on June 24, 13 14. * Cf. Bk. i. ch. ii. 

' Major's derivation is wrong ; but the word * sterling * is, according to Mr. 
Skeat, of English origin — the M. H. G. sterlinc being borrowed from it. A 
statute of Edward the First has * denarius Angliae qui vocatur Sterlingtis.^ 


aid of the Scots and the men of Hainault, held Gascony, was 
married to the daughter of the French king, held Wales too, 
and a large part of Ireland ; and in Scotland many men of note 
were still in active enmity to Robert Bruce. So that there 
can be no doubt that Edward Bruce showed a want of fore- 
sight in granting so long a truce to a monarch who had so 
much within his power. And in this matter I agree with 
Robert Bruce ; though God may, accidentally, turn ever3rthing 
into a better course. 

CHAP. II. — Of the immense army that the English king brought 
against the Scot ; of the prelude to the battle, and the valour that was 
shonm therein by Randolph and a few among the Scots; of Douglas's 
loyalty and kindness tofvards Randolph, and the speech that was made 
by both kings to their soldiers. 

Immense was the army which Edward brought together for A huge army < 
the relief of the Stirling castle, and the choicest he could thousand met 
muster out of all the races, whether his subjects or his allies, 
with which he had to do. In number of troops and their 
equipment we read of the like nowhere in Britain. We are England's pr* 
told that Edward hfid with him three hundred thousand fight- fighi^"g men. 
ing men ; but I find it hard to believe that their tale can have 
been so great ; not that England by herself alone could not 
furnish three hundred thousand warriors, for of men in Britain 
who are in the flower of their life and of warriors the number 
is the same ; but such a world of men as this their kings either 
cannot or will not maintain. When Robert Bruce heard of 
this formidable advance of the English king, he compelled 
whence he could all he could, and so had under him five and 
thirty thousand well-trained soldiers. He had along with him 
three men of high renown in the art of war : famous they were 
throughout Britain for their conspicuous valour; and these Three most 
were Edward Bruce his brother, Thomas Randolph, and James ^^ ^ "^^"' 
Douglas. He led his army, then, all resplendent in arms, to 
the bum that is called Bannock, near to Stirling. [The English 
king] ^, however, when he saw that Robert Bruce had taken his 

^ I have supplied these words. There is no nominative in the original ; and 
* he ' would apply to Bruce. 

234 JOHN MAJOR'S HISTORY [book v. 

stand upon a plain every way fitted for a battle indeed, but 
right between himself and the castle, could not avoid to marvel, 
and very many of his famous warriors marvelled likewise, how, 
with so small a force, Robert Bruce stood there, in a direct line 
[between two enemies] ready for the combat. Others there 
were among the English who were not so much surprised, for 
they knew Robert to be a man of most approved skill in battle, 
for a long time accustomed to daily fighting, and they judged 
that many a high-hearted noble would either conquer there, 
or die the death of a brave man. Wherefore their prediction 
was that the impending battle would be far from bloodless. 

The two opposing armies thus had one another in view at 
a distance of a mile, judging, each of them, that to-morrow''s 
light would bring death along with it for the greater number, 
and that a great disaster would surely befal one side or the 
other. Edward, however, contrived in some way so to avoid 
the Scottish army as to send eighty picked horsemen to Stirling 
Castle to Philip Mowbray that so he might observe the day 
that had been fixed for its relief. Against these eighty, by the 
king's command, Thomas Randolph leads fifty chosen horse- 
men. In the presence of both kings and of the army they fall 
the%cked men. ^^ arnis with eager alacrity. The combat was fierce, and for a 

long time it lasted. The lord Douglas meanwhile prays the 
king to suffer him to go to the succour of the Scots ; but the 
king denied him utterly. Douglas, however, when he saw the 
combat to be long protracted, began to have his fears for that 
most excellent general, Randolph, and with or without the per- 
mission that he had craved, he set out to the help of his 
comrade. But as he drew near to the scene of the conflict, he 
became aware of gaps, as it were, and clefts in the English line, 
which came from the enemy falling on all sides. He took up 
a position therefore at a distance, for he felt that he should be 
acting an ignoble part were he to draw near and in any way 
deprive the illustrious leader of the glory that would surely 
come to him from the conflict and its issue. 

Perhaps you may be inclined to think that the approach of 
Douglas struck fear into the enemy. But as there is no doubt 
that the enemy was routed already, no one can truthfully aver so 
much. The night that followed resembled rather an artificial 

CHAP, il] of greater BRITAIN 235 

day*; both armies betook themselves to their tents, but ere 
they did so, great bonfires were on all sides kindled in case of 
a sudden attack by the enemy in the darkness. Patrols on 
horseback and on foot made their rounds outside the whole of 
the camp ; and meanwhile the armies snatch what sleep and rest 
they may, so that on the morrow, with their energies refreshed, 
they might bring unwearied frames to the combat that lay be- 
fore them. But already, in the third hour after midnight, the 
drill-masters \ and the officers who were set over each division, 
began to consult as to making an instant attack. 

Meanwhile Edward, wearing his royal robes, is said thus to Speech of 
have addressed his soldiers : ' Were I not face to face with an Edward. 
indubitable victory, my gallant soldiers, my speech with you 
this day would begin in different fashion ; for both in number 
and in equipment of our troops we are far superior to those 
wretched Scots. In engines of war, in catapults, in arrows, 
and all such machinery of war we abound, while in all these the 
Scots are lacking. Those among them that are of more civility 
have no other shirts than what are made from deers"* hides, and 
the plaids of their wild men are not otherwise ; so that a party 
of our bowmen, who are equal to theirs in number, shall slay 
those unarmed men before the burden of the fight begins. And 
if you begin to wonder how men like these have sometimes 
conquered my subjects, I pray you not so to wonder, since it 
was by craft and cuiming that they did so, and not by con- 
spicuous valour. And if perchance they have sometimes 
defeated, by their own skill, men who were by no means fit for 
combat, or an enemy opposed to them in equal numbers, they 
will of a surety make no stand against us, who excel them 
vastly in numbers, equipment, and fair training in the field. 
The king of Scots has under him an unwarlike race, which 
fights too at its own charges, and he has no picked army. God, 
you may believe me, has shut in within this fair field that fox 
Bruce, a man who, as a child, owed all his nurture to my dear 
father, in order that he may pay the condign penalty of his 
wickedness. At the hands of my father, of brave and happy 

. ' Nocte diem artificialem sequente ad tcntoria uterque exercitus se contraxit. 

^ *campiductores'. *Campidoctor' is recognised as the better form of the word. 
Major, however, has * campiductor ' or *campi ductor' in four other places. 

286 JOHN MAJOR^S HISTORY [book v. 

memory, his three brothers lost their lives ; for me it remains 
to take alive those other two, wicked and crafty men, and bring 
them to London, there to expiate their crimes. I would recall 
to you, my nobles, how ye received at the hands of my father 
ample domains in the country of these men ; make exhibition 
then of your strength and valour that ye may redeem the 
same from those who now unjustly hold them. And I pro- 
mise you, still further, this: that with equitable cord I will 
make geometrical apportionment of the whole Scottish king- 
dom among all well-deserving men, according to the merits 
of each ; the superiority of the soil only, after the land has 
been distributed to my soldiers, will I take care to retain for 
myself. And if, in the coming conflict — which may God 
avert ! — there shall be some who fall, to the inheritance of the 
noble dead their children shall succeed. If then you desire the 
fruition of my promises, betake you with cheerful courage to the 
combat, wherein a short two hours— for longer than that the 
enemy will not be able to withstand you — shall gain for you 
undying glory and fair possessions.' 

Thus Edward. And on the other side the Bruce, in com- 
plete armour all save his head, climbing to the summit of a 
Descriptien of certain knoll, and thence plainly visible by all his army (for 
o ruce. j^^ ^^ £^^ ^^ l^^j^ upon, handsome of aspect, shapely and 

vigorous in body, broad-shouldered, of an agreeable counte- 
nance, his hair yellow, as you find it among northern nations, 
his eye blue and sparkling, of quick intelligence, and in the 
use of his mother tongue as ready as to all who heard him he 
His speech. was welcome), is said thus to have addressed his soldiers : * If 
ever the Powers above have granted to mortal man a just 
cause for which to fight, "'tis to-day, my gallant friends, it is 
to us they grant it. For it is not with us, as with our enemies, 
to bring distress within the borders of another country that we 
take up arms, but to defend our own — that end which all men 
hold it well worth while to win with life itself. Our strife 
to-day is for our worldly goods, for our children, our wives, 
for life, for the independence of our native land, for hearth 
and home, for all that men hold dear. The Powers above will 
protect the innocent and defend the cause of justice; the 
boastful man and the wrongful oppressor they will bring to 


the dust. Consider not too carefully that unfortunate begin- 
ning of my reign — all these disasters I attribute to my slaying 
of John Gumming before the altar ; that great crime 1 have 
wiped out by long repentance and tears ; in proof of this I 
have won over the enemy no mean victories in succession. It 
behoves not princes whom foul vice has stained to provoke the 
chances of war, lest God be made angry; and we read, in 
regard to those who have acted otherwise, that they have 
brought destruction both upon themselves and upon their 
soldiers. Tis a coward's part to fear the foe for all his motley 
multitude ; for did not Alexander of Macedon overcome Darius 
when he was surrounded by a greater number ; and, what you 
all know well, did not my brother Edward, Thomas Randolph, 
and James Douglas, conquer forces greater than their own ? 

* It has been told me of that army yonder that it is made up 
of men who speak six different tongues ; the very soldiers are 
unknown one to another, so that the defection of any one of 
them from the ranks would not be noticed. It is a slender 
task that I lay upon you : that each of you slay his man. Ten 
thousand stout men of war I know, each one of whom will 
bring death to two of the enemy. Thus shall you have 
destroyed of their number Hve-and-forty thousand. And 
when this is done, as done I hope it will be, you will force the 
haughty foe to retreat. But if — which thing God forbid ! — it 
happened that we were conquered, the enemy shall celebrate 
no bloodless victory, and my living body at least ye shall not 
have among you. We will send so many souls to the shades 
that for what remains of the enemy the Cunimings, or other 
Scots, shall be able to render an account in a battle that shall 
cost them little. It belongs to brave men to die nobly or to 
live nobly. Inglorious our lives will be and full of shame for 
ever, if they are not knit beyond chance of dissolution with 
the independence of our country. Our predecessor Kenneth 
held but a third portion of this kingdom of ours when he 
subdued the haughty and warlike Pict. Our ancestors, too, 
made no restitution of territory to the English, but even, and 
more than once, laid waste their lands in return for attacks 
that had been rashly made upon themselves. I pray you then, 
and beseech you, by great Kenneth, by Gregory, by the Alex- 

238 JOHN MAJOR^S HISTORY [book v. 

anders, that you quit you like men in the heat of the battle 
now before you. Let us leave to our children as the outcome 
of this conflict an example of valour so conspicuous that after 
chroniclers must needs leave without an answer the question 
whether they must yield the palm to us or we to them."' And 
then, with a smile, and pointing with his right hand toward 
the enemy, he added : * Before the sun set, by God''s help, the 
English leader shall have parted with his arms, and those arms 
shall be yours. My past experience of this enemy gives me 
the certainty that he will not make stand against your onset.** 

To such a pitch did the king's speech inflame the hearts of 
all who heard it that stretching forth, each man of them, his 
armed right hand, they raised an universal shout, ' The day is 
ours, or every man of us shall die in battle \ Thereupon the 
king descended from the mound whence he had spoken, and 
baring his head embraced each of his chief men ; afterward, 
with his eyes fixed upon the army, he waved his right hand, 
as it were to each of them, man by man, in sign that they 
were all his friends and fellows. 

CHAP. III. — Of the drawing up of the two armies in order of battle. 

The Scots order The Scot disposed his army in three divisions : the first, that 
of battle. which the French are accustomed to call the vanguard, he 

intrusted to those most trusty captains Thomas Randolph and 
James Douglas. In this line he placed seven thousand of the 
Border youth, men wlio from their earliest years had known 
no other occupation than fighting ; along with these he joined 
three thousand of the Wild Scots, whose arms consisted of a 
two-edged battle-axe, equally sharp on both sides ^ ; men, 
these last, who will rush upon the enemy with the fury of a 
lioness in fear for her cubs. Against these the English king 
summons eighty thousand warriors. In the absence of his 
immediate followers, king Bruce dared to utter these words : 
* Either our men shall slay thirty thousand of the enemy, or 
they will gain the day.' The second army division, ten 
thousand strong, he intrusted to that indefatigable warrior 
Edward ; but just because he knew his brother'^s haughty and 

^ Note that this is dififerent from the Lochabcr axe described on p. 240. 


choleric temper to be such that thunder could not stop his 
course, he joined with him in command several noblemen well 
up in years, to the end their colder judgment might qualify 
the youthful ardour of the other. Of the third division, which 
was fifteen thousand strong, the king himself took command. 
And now the air resounds with the noise, huge, horrific, of 
trumpet, clarion, horn, and all such instruments as are used to 
stir the martial mind. One after the other the king made 
visitation of the various divisions of his army, carrying where- 
ever he might go a cheerful countenance along with him ; so 
that men read, as one might say, victory in his very face, and 
any man might thank his fortune that under such a king he 
was soon to enter the lists of battle. 

It was at a distance of two arrow-shots that a certain English 
knight, and a shrewd man too, took note of Robert Bruce as he 
gave his directions now to this division now to that, and forth- 
with rode at full gallop against the king, thinking either to bear 
him to the ground with his lance, or to force him to fly. But A bold feat 
the king, rising in his stirrup, thus received the attack. He ° ® ^* 
skilfully evaded the blow from the lance, but at the very moment 
when his foe was passing him, and in the presence of all, he dealt 
him, with an iron-studded club, which the while he had been 
swinging in his hand, so terrible a blow that the knight fell 
headlong on the ground, a dead man. And when his nobles 
were for censuring the over-boldness of the king, he took no 
note of their words ;, but with a smile he complained of his 
luck, seeing that he had broken with that blow as good a club 
as ever in his life he wielded. The common people, however — 
as their habit is when the question is of any foolhardy deed — 
could not find words to praise highly enough this feat of their 
king. Putting their horses on one side, however, the com- a battle of 
batants prepare to fight on foot. For it is as foot-soldiers and foot-soldiers. 
not as cavalry that the Britons have been at all times accus- 
tomed to fight, placing their hopes of victory, not in the fleet- 
ness of a horse or the force of its onset, but in their own right 

Thus then, after the discharge of implements of war, and 
when in the first onset arrows had been falling like hail, the 
two hostile forces come breast to breast and close with one 


another, as two rams will do when they meet in mortal conflict. 
Wooden lances and darts were launched with utmost swiftness ; 
at a great distance you might have caught the sound of the 
lances as they snapped. Lances once broken, the fighting is 
taken up with the double-axes of Leith, the axes of Lochaber, 
than which is none more strong to cleave, the iron-knobbed 
staves of Jedburgh, and the two-edged axe and bill-hook. 
The smiths of Jedburgh fasten a piece of tempered iron four 
feet long to the end of a stout stafi; The double-axe of Leith 
is very much the same as the French halberd ; yet it is a little 
longer, and on the whole a more convenient weapon. The 
smiths put a piece of iron formed hook-wise at the end of a 
stout staff — this serves as a bill-hook or axe ; this most ser- 
viceable weapon is in use among the English yeomen. The 
Lochaber axe, which is employed by the Wild Scots of the 
north, is single-edged only^ Its course is lined by many a 
Great slaughter, corpse, and death^s pale face is constant there. Like two 
blacksmiths, as they deal their blows alternate on the red-hot 
iron upon the anvil, such is the interchange of blows between 
the stout warriors on both sides : and long did the result con- 
tinue doubtful ; for the Englishmen, so superior to the Scots 
were they in number and equipment, thought shame to fly ; 
and there were but few who dared to desert, lest in their flight 
they should be taken prisoners by the Scots. 

On the other hand the Scots, mindful of their mutual pro- 
mise, remained constant therein ; and determined to gain the 
day, or to make the enemy remember the day only too well, 
though they themselves could do naught but die a glorious 
death. The men of the Borders made a fierce onslaught on 
The savage the enemy ; the Wild Scots rushed upon them in their fury as 
Wfldfcots. ^ild boars will do ; hardly would any weapons make stand 
against their axes handled as they knew to handle them ; all 
around them was a very shambles of dead men, and when, stung 
by wounds, they were yet unable by reason of the long staves of 
the enemy to come to close quarters, they threw off their plaids 
and, as their custom was, did not hesitate to offer their naked 
bellies to the point of the spear. Now in close contact with the 

^ Cf. the description of the two-edged axe at the beginning of this chapter, 
and of the Wild Scots* arms at the end of ch. viii. in Bk. i. 


foe, no thought is theirs but of the glorious death that awaited 

them if only they might at the same time compass his death 

too. Once entered in the heat of conflict, even as one sheep 

will follow another, so they, and hold cheap their lives. The 

whole plain is red with blood ; from the higher parts to the 

lower blood flows in streams. In blood the heroes fought, yea 

knee-deep. With marvellous skill did the English bowmen 

pick out the unarmed Scots ; and when Bruce, whose eyes, as 

he were another Argus, were in every place, was ware of this, 

he sent against the bowmen some stout-hearted men, who The bowmen 

forthwith drove them back with great slaughter. Meanwhile, The^^SavcnTof* 

when the issue of the day was doubtful still, the servants who serving-moi and 

had been left at the tents to guard the horses and baggage of 

their masters, moved with compassion for the case of their 

lords, left all and threw themselves upon the foe. 

Of the English there fell a much greater number than of 
the Scots. And at length the English king was counselled by 
those around him (for his own spirit was too proud), to with- 
draw from the battle, since otherwise the Scots, careless 
whether they slew or were slain, would make an end of the 
king and of his nobles every one. It was urged upon him 
that he would be acting more wisely for his country if he 
sought safety in flight, than if he jeoparded the fortunes of 
England by his own death and the loss of all his nobility. 

Edward therefore turns his back. The report goes that the Flight of the 
Scots lost four thousand, and the English fifty thousand in ^nghsh king. 
that battle ; and besides the slain, count must be made of the 
prisoners, who consisted of almost the whole English army, 
with the exception of the king, who made good his escape, 
attended by a large body of soldiers. Wearied the Scots were 
with fighting, and for the most part wounded, so that they 
were not able at once to pursue the English king. Douglas, 
however, by the king'^s command, and accompanied by no 
more than four hundred horsemen, went in pursuit of Edward 
and his ten tliousand mounted troops ; and ever as he went 
other Scots joined themselves to him. But, as the matter The earl of 
turned out, the earl of March, a Scot, granted refuge to the refT^e toTh'* 
English king in the castle of Dunbar, and sent him by sea to English king. 
England. Otherwise he could not have escaped the hands of 

242 JOHN MAJOR'S HISTORY [book v. 

that indefatigable warrior the Douglas, who with an armed 
force was lying in wait for the English king near to the 
Borders. But of this hope Douglas was cheated by the 
treachery of March. This was one of the reasons why the 
Dunbars lost the earldom of March. By exchange of an 
The Scots king English captive Bruce recovered his wife, the queen of Scot- 
regains IS wi e. j^j^j^ About this battle a certain religious of Mount Carmel 
Verses by a made a little book, whose beginning runs thus : — 


De planctu cudo metrum cum carmine nudo : 

Risum retrudo^ dum tali themate ludo. 

The verses are rude, and not worthy the attention of the 
reader; so I pass them by^ In this war the Scots gained 
mightily at once in military glory and in material advantage ; 
and for the losses they had sustained in former times received 
a large restitution, won indeed by their own hard fighting, 
with the favour of heaven. Then did the army of Robert 
Bruce and his friends extol him to the skies ; but the Cum- 
mings and the other Scots who had formerly been free with 
their threats began to tremble. 

CHAP. IV. — Of the establishment of Robert Bruce in the kingdom ; 
of the skirmishing raids made by the English ; and of the death in 
Ireland of Edward Bruce, 

After the fortunate issue of the terrible battle at Bannock- 
bum the Scots held at Ayr a great assembly, of the kind which 
the Britons call a parliament, whither convened the three 
estates representative of the realm, just as a duly constituted 
council represents the whole church. There it was with one 
Robert Bruce is voice determined that Robert Bruce should remain the unques- 
declared king, tioned king of Scotland ; and, if it should happen that he went 

1 The writer was William Baston, an eye witness of the battle, in which he 
was, as he tells us, made prisoner : 

' Sum Carmelita, Baston cognomine dictus 
Qui doleo vita, in tali strage relictus.' 

It will be observed that Major makes no mention of the pits set with caltrops by 
which the English horse were lamed. Baston, however, writes of the 

' Machina plena mails pedibus formatur equinis, 
Concava cum palis, ne pergant absque minis '. 
The whole rhyme is printed at the end of Freebaim*s edition of Major's History. 


the way of all flesh without male issue, that his brother Edward 
should be his successor ; while, if he and his brother should 
alike die childless, Marjory, daughter to Robert, should be 
queen. It pertains to the three estates, in any matter of 
extreme difficulty, to deal authoritatively with doubtful matters 
affecting the kingdom, and on occasion to depart, for good and 
sufficient reasons, from the practice of the common law. In 
some other parts of the world, as in the island of Ceylon ^, any xhe king 
one who is up in years, and without children, may be chosen °^ ^^^°°- 
to be king; and if after he becomes king he should have 
issue, he is deposed. In some kingdoms, as in Castile and in 
Britain, a woman succeeds to the throne, and is preferred to 
the brother of the king; in other kingdoms just the opposite 
use is in force. In such positive laws, of human enactment, 
such diversity may be expected ; but the common law is not 
lightly to be interfered with, because such change of laws 
shakes the foundations. 

Now this matter of the succession to the throne received the 
most searching investigation at the hand of the three estates. 
For they saw before them English Edward panting for the 
kingdom of Scotland, and they knew that in the end, aided by 
civil war and intestine quarrels, he would be successful, unless 
a strong man sat upon the throne. Now the men of Ireland, 
when they saw the magnanimity of Robert Bruce and his 
brother, desired to have Edward Bruce for their king, and one 
party among them sent an embassy into Scotland with that 
intent. Robert then sent his brother to Ireland with a 
middling army, and Edward bore himself there so manfully Edward Bruce 
that in no long time he subdued a large tract of that island, fj!^^ 
In the following year he was there joined by Robert Bruce Robert follows 
himself, but on that expedition many men died of famine. *™' 
When English Edward learned that Robert Bruce had left 
Scotland, he felt that the proper time had arrived for a new i^e English 
invasion of that country, and sent thither a large army. The |"^® ^^* 
lord Douglas was then guardian of Scotland, and he marched 
to meet the English force, and routed it. Three of the English Slaughter of 
leaders he slew : namely, Edmund Lylaw a Gascon*, the captain * * °8 ^ • 

^ Major refers to this custom of the Cingalese in his In Quartum^ eic.^ ed. 
1 52 1, fol. Ixxvi. 
' The • Ewmond de Caliou ' of Barbour (Tlu Brus^ cxviii. 6). 



[book v. 

A fleet is sent 
against Scot- 

slaaghter of 
the English. 

Birth of Robert 

brings back 
booty from 

Berwick is 

of Berwick, and Robert Nevel ; the third, who was a man of rank, 
he killed with his own hands. When English Edward came to 
hear of this, he sent a fleet of many sails against Scotland (in 
vessels of war the English are superior to the Scots) to the end 
they should harass and waste the seaboard country. They 
entered the river Forth, and landed at Donibristle ; there they 
were met by the sheriff* of Fife with five hundred men. But 
he did not dare to attack the English, because of their 
superiority in number, and abstained from giving battle until 
he was joined by William Sinclair, bishop of Dunkeld, with the 
members of his court and a few of his dependants. And the 
bishop rebuked the sheriff^ of Fife sharply, and over and again 
compelled him to give battle to the English. And there were left 
on the field five hundred of the English slain, while many of the 
remnant took to flight and were drowned. It was from this feat 
that Robert Bruce called William Sinclair his own bishop. 

In the same year was bom Robert Stuart, son of Walter 
Stuart, and by Marjory, daughter of Robert Bruce, he was 
grandson of Robert Bruce ; and he afterwards became king of 
the Scots ; and thereafter, in the two following years, the lord 
Thomas Randolph, earl of Moray, invaded England and laid 
waste the whole country up to Wetherby, returning home 
from this expedition laden with much rich booty and without 
loss of men. In the same year Berwick is recovered from the 
English. In the year one thousand three hundred and nine- 
teen, however, English Edward besieged Berwick, but profited 
very little in his besieging. All this is clear from the state- 
ments of the English chronicler as quoted above. Now and 
again we repeat by accident a story that we have dealt with 
before. The reason is this: that the English records some- 
times deal with a particular incident more at length than do 
the Scotch — and sometimes the case is contrariwise. Further, 
on the fourteenth day of October, in the same year, was fought 
the battle of Dundalk, in Ireland, and Edward Bruce there 
lost his life. He was unwilling to await the arrival on 
the following day of his brother Robert, who was advancing 
slowly with assistance, and so it came about that from undue 
haste, and a want of that foresight which is necessary in a 
soldier, a man otherwise brave and wise came by his end, 
amidst the lamentations of all around him. 


CHAP. V. — How the kitigs ravaged each the others country. Of the 
policy of delay adopted by Robert, and hotv he then carried the attack 
into England ; his address to his solars ; Edward's exhortation to the 
English, Of the battle and the victory won by the Scots, 

In the thirteen hundred and twentieth year from the Assembling of 
Virgin^s travail, Robert Bruce summoned a great council of the atlscone.™*" 
three estates at Scone. The lord William of Soulis and the 
countess of Stratherne were there convicted on a charge of 
treason, and condemned to imprisonment for life, and David, 
lord of Brechin, who had kept silence regarding a crime com- 
mitted against the king, was sentenced therefor to death. David, a man of 
Now this David was one who had won great renown as a ^^^j^Jed.*^' ** 
soldier, and for the love of Christ had done mighty deeds 
against the Hagarenes ^ ; but in the end he sullied his fair life 
by keeping silence in regard to the abovesaid crime ; wherefore 
himself and Gilbert of Malerb, and John Logy, knights all, 
and Richard Brown, a notable warrior, were dragged at horses'* 
tails after the British fashion with traitors, and thereafter be- 
headed. On which account this parliament came to be called 
in after times the Black Parliament. Many others there were The Black 
who were suspected of treason, but because no legal evidence **"^" 
could be produced against them, they were discharged. Upon 
these traitors lies an everlasting stain, seeing that they dared 
craftily to plot the death of a king whose life was devoted to 
the welfare of his country. And in David of Brechin it 
was a shameful thing that he disgraced his life by this criminal 
silence. No oath that he had taken to wicked men bound 
him to silence ; for the seal of [natural] secrecy ^ binds a man 
by no means so straitly as the seal of confession. For in every 
case of confession the seal is binding, whether the confession The seal of 
touch the question of some crime as about to be committed, or The seal of 
a crime already committed, such as heresy or treason ; but the ^^ J^^ 
seal of secrecy does not in this manner bind a man; for it the life of the 
behoved him to give warning to the king, that so he might stake, 
take more careful measures for his own safety, and beware of 

^ t.g. the children of Hagar = the Saracens. 

^ Orig. and F. * sigilli secretum * ; an evident misprint for ' sigillum secreti '. 



[book v. 

Bruce ravages 

The English 
king retreats, 
urged thereto 
by scarcity of 
com, and the 
Scots policy of 


his foe ; and if this were not sufficient to safeguard the life of 
the king, he was plainly bound to reveal the traitors by name. 
So that sentence of death was justly passed upon the aforesaid 
David. And further, the property of the conspirators was 
confiscated to the treasury. 

In the course of the two following years Robert Bruce 
invaded England and ravaged and wasted the country up to 
Stanmor; and when he had returned to Scotland English Edward 
got together a mighty armament, and by land, and by sea too 
with his fleet of fast-sailing galleys, penetrated into Scotland, 
and made his way to Edinburgh. Now when this came to the 
knowledge of Robert Bruce, he withdrew all supplies along the 
line of march of the English king ; and though he could have 
brought his people together, he was unwilling to fight with the 
English a second time on Scottish soil ; for he preferred that 
policy of delay which has the sanction of Fabius the Roman 
rather than to jeopardise a kingdom, which had been won at 
such a cost, in a doubtful struggle with the English king. 
That terrible battle of Bannockbum was still vividly in his 
memory, and, victor though he was, he could not readily forget 
the wounds, and horrid consequence of war, at which the day 
was bought. It was therefore of set purpose that this most 
perspicacious general refrained from fighting, and rather aimed 
at compelling the retreat of the English army by contriving a 
scarcity of com. This policy of delay, this ability in setting a 
trap for the enemy, as it were, and playing with him, are things 
of the first moment in the character of the complete soldier. 

In the very same year, however, in the beginning of 
November, this same Robert the Bruce got together an army 
of Scots, and therewith made hostile invasion of England ; and 
he reached nearly as far as York. For a distance of fifty 
leagues he moved from place to place in England and every- 
where ravaged the country. Most of all do I admire that con- 
ception of RobertX which led him not to give battle to the 
English king when he made hostile invasion of Scotland, but 
rather to carry the war himself into the enemy's country. One 
of two things must be admitted : either Robert had begun to 
be ashamed of that policy of delay which he had followed in 
the past (but in very truth he had no need to blush for it, for 


his name was in the mouth of every sensible man, for praise 
and not for blame, in that very matter of delay), or he had 
come to think it wiser to give battle to the English king in 
England rather than in Scotland. I believe it was this second 
consideration that moved him, and that he acted from the 
ripest judgment of the situation ; for, to remove from the 
Border soldiers any temptation to draw back, he led his army 
far into England. And when news was brought him by his 
outposts that English Edward, with an overwhelming force, 
was bearing down upon him, he chose for the field of battle a 
fair plain between Byland and St. Salvator, and in such words 
as these he warmed his soldiers' hearts for the fight : 

* As to the fight that is now imminent, high-hearted Scots, King Bmce- 
methinks that there is no need of words from me to you ; from the ^g soSiCTs^^ 
Scottish marches we are distant (as by experience you well know 
to be the case) good one hundred miles ; so that if there should be 
a few to desert their posts, these must needs fall into the hands 
of a cruel enemy, and by an angry enemy be slain, or, if they 
should survive as captives in his hands, such an end will not 
only be full of disgrace and ignominy for them, but likewise 
for all their posterity. Ye know, all of you, how disgraceful a 
thing a low kind of fear has ever been reckoned amongst us 
Scots, and how fortitude and enterprise are lauded to the skies ; 
now these two qualities for the most part render a man eager 
for the fight. It remains only that we keep of one mind and 
bear us in the field as one man, and aim at naught but victory 
or an honourable death. For, by Heaven I swear it, the Scots 
shall never have the chance to ransom me, nor shall cmy 
Englishmen in their banquetings make sport of the king of 
Scots. In sacred history we read how Nabuchodonosor, king 
of the Assyrians, made mock of the last king of Judea in the 
time of his captivity^, and jeered at him in his presence; 
wherefore I would beseech you every one to be of my mind in 
regard to the battle now before us, and to determine to die the 
death of the brave or once for all to dash the pride of our foe. 
And though it may be, indeed, that one or another among you. 

1 The reference seems to be to the indignities heaped upon Zedekiah by the 
Assyrian king. See the last chapter of Jeremiah and parallel passages. 



[book v. 

speech to his 

whether from natural disposition, or from starry influences, or 
by way of inheritance from his cmcestors, may be timorously 
inclined, yet "'tis in the power of any man by a strong effort of 
the will to subdue this base passion of fear ^. Before now we 
have conquered this same king Edward when we were fewer in 
number, and when he had with him a stronger force than now. 
Not only did we conquer him, but made him fly before us like 
a coward ; so that the lesson he has learned is, not conquering, 
but flight. But I by long habit am accustomed to the other 
way. If there be safety anywhere for our foe and his soldiers, 
safest of all is flight before the battle. For we number more 
than forty thousand men. Let this therefore admit of no 
doubt, that before you have made away with thirty thousand 
men, the line of the enemy will be broken. And the victory in 
this flght must be won by us unaided, that so we may outdo 
the fame of Kenneth, Gregory, David, €md the Alexanders. 
Wherefore gird you for the fight eagerly, fearlessly, and 
approve yourselves brave men, the equals, if not even the 
superiors, of your ancestors."* 

On the other side the English king is said to have exhorted his 
English soldiers with these words : ^ Nobles and brave men all, 
you have not of a surety forgotten the outrageous conduct of that 
most ungrateful Scot, how that in the beginning he espoused 
the cause of my most worthy father, and then, urged by his 
own ambition of a kingly throne, deserted to the Scots. And 
though fortune deserted me at Bannockburn, this is no matter 
for wonder ; it was the very variety of tongues amongst us, the 
very superfluity and superabundance of our soldiery, that 
wrought our ruin. When I led my English only with me into 
Scotland and sought an occasion of battle, I could no way 
bring that coward Bruce to face me. Then, to purge himself 
of that foul stain, he came into our boundaries, all unknowing 
of the war that should arise ; for he thought to himself that, 
laden with plunder and captives, he should be allowed to 
return in peace to Scotland ; but the matter has turned out 
otherwise for him, and less fortunately. For we are, in this 
place, Englishmen only — face to face with Scots, — in greater 

^ Cf. anUy Bk. I v. ch. xi. p. 184, and footnote. 


number and better equipped. The Scottish kings make pay- 
ment to no one of their soldiers, but these at their own charges 
serve for a few days only, and thereafter make a living by 
pilfering from the enemy. You will understand then how such 
an army, promiscuously got together from any sort of people, 
knows nothing of fighting ; to till the field, to work — if you 
like — as an artisan — so much any one of its soldiers can do, and 
from earliest years has done ; but of war these men know nothing. 
Wherefore you need but to fight bravely for a short time, and 
you shall put to utter rout that most ungrateful, that most 
coward, foe, and all his belongings. If in our own country we 
should suffer defeat at the hands of a rabble of men who live 
by plunder, the brand of shame may well be legible upon our 
brows throughout the world and as long as time shall last. 
This stain and vice of fear you must learn to shun as you 
would shun Cerberus ^ himself, and like brave men gird you for 
the battle with the armour of a lofty courage.** 

Thus saying, and when all was in order for the conflict, he The beginning 
dashed forward against the Scots, calling out continuously, ° 
* Saint George, and Edward of Carnarvon."* The Scots, on the The battle-cry. 
other hand, entered on the conflict with shouts of 'Saint 
Andrew and Robert Bruce, father of victories.' The com- 
manders of both armies made their prayers also to the saints 
for victory, and that, supported by their love and favour, it 
might be granted them to quit them like brave men. The 
battle was contested with fury ; the meadow just now so green 
took on a blood-red tint, and in the lower parts deep streams 
of blood were formed. But as for every one of the Scots who 
fell there fell of the English four, the English turned their The rout of 
backs, the Scots put king Edward to flight, — and it was the es^J^^q/^' 
fleetness of his horses alone that saved his life. Many of the Edward, 
chief men among the English were slain ; many more were victory of 
carried captive into Scotland. The Scots packed together all *« Scots. 
the warlike machines and other furnishings of the English 
king, and turned their faces homeward, laying waste the while 
the country that lay between. And inasmuch as they had 
entered England by one road, they quitted it by another, for 

^ A common figure. Cf. what Major says antty p. 70, of the stepmother. 

250 JOHN MAJOR'S HISTORY [book v. 

in this way they got them a better provision of food ; and this 
they did, no doubt, because the common Scots, when they go 
to war, carry with them but a scanty provender slung in small 
sacks across their horses' necks. 


CHAP. VI. — Of what took place in England in the time of Robert 
Bruce; chiefly of the factions and quarrels of the nobles of the kingdom 
which arose through the arrogance of Hugh Spenser. 

We will now leave Robert Bruce, in peaceful possession of 
the Scottish throne, and narrate what took place in his 
day in England. In doing so we will follow the English 
chroniclers, as in such case we always do, since they are better 
acquainted with their own affairs. While Edward was laying 
siege to Berwick, which had been recovered a few days before 
from the English by the Scots, the Scots invaded England, and 
in the battle of Myton^ routed the English forces. In con- 
ward has to sequence whereof Edward was obliged to raise the siege of 
geofBo-. Berwick. He returned to London, and then began to come 
^- under the absolute in£Fuence of his chamberlain, Hugh Spenser, 

e arrogance So strictly did this Hugh keep watch over the king's chamber, 
^^ that no one could gain access to the monarch unless by his 

will and pleasure, and such an one would always make a gift 
to Hugh before he departed. 

Now this raised the wrath, and justly raised it, of the 
princes and all the nobles of England to such a degree that the 
earl of Lancaster and many of his followers marched to the 
Welsh border, and there ravaged the territory of Hugh 
Spenser and of his son Hugh. The king, however, sent some 
of these indignant nobles into banishment, Mowbray to wit, 
and Roger Clefford, and Joslin Davil, and many more. He 
hoped by this means to terrify the earl of Lancaster and his 
followers ; but so far was he from gaining his end that they 
wrought more harm than ever. The king then sent messengers 
to them, commanding them to attend a parliament in London; 
and to that parliament came the tribes with great armies. 
These are the princes who came with their foUowings of armed 

^ i,e, * The Chapter of Mitton*; see aft^e, p. 228. 


men : Humfrey de Bohun earl of Hereford, Roger Clefford, The princes of 
John Moubraye, Joslin Davil, Roger Mortymer, Henry Trays, came in armed 
John GifFard, Bartholomew Badelessemor ^, Roger Dammory, [?^^"J P*'' 
Hugh Dandale, Gilbert Clare earl of Gloucester. 

It was at length determined that Hugh Spenser and his son Exile of Hugh 
should be sentenced to perpetual banishment from England ; ^^^^' 
yet it was but a short time before the king recalled them into 
England, and sent into banishment Thomas earl of Lancaster, 
and his adherents. But the Mortimers, who were members of 
a numerous and powerful family, managed to gain the king's 
favour; and they were imprisoned in the Tower of London. 
Now when the rest of the English nobles came to know of this, 
they went to Thomas earl of Lancaster, who was then at 
Pontefract, and told him how the Mortimers had been put 
into prison. Thomas earl of Lancaster with his followers 
then laid siege to the castle of Tikhil % and against him there 
king Edward led a large army. With him were joined the 
Spensers, Aldomar Valance earl of Pembroke, and John earl of 
Arundel, and they defeated Thomas earl of Lancaster, who 
first took refuge with his followers at Tetbury castle, and 
afterwards at Pontefract. In the convent of the preaching 
friars at Pontefract, Thomas earl of Lancaster, Humfrey de 
Bohun earl of Hereford, and along with them the barons, met, 
and there agreed that they should go to Dunstanburgh, which 
belonged to the earl of Lancaster, until they should be able to 
arrange a peace with king Edward. But Thomas earl of 
Lancaster would not agree to this proposal, for he said that 
he should be called a traitor if he drew near to the Scottish 
marches, because of the continuing enmity between English 
Edward and Robert Bruce. But Roger Clefford judged that 
such removal to Dunstanburgh was a necessity, because of the 
influence of the king in their present neighbourhood, and, draw- 
ing his sword, he told the earl of Lancaster that if he would 
not accompany himself and the rest to Dunstanburgh, he would 
slay him, with his own hands, where he stood. Thomas there- 
upon gave his consent to go along with them, and, with 
seventy men, made all heiste to Dunstanburgh. But when 
they were come to Boroughbridge, they were met by an army 

t,e, Badlcsmere. ^ Orig. * Tilche '. 


under Andrew Herkelay, king Edward's lieutenant in the 

Scottish marches, who put to death the earl of Hereford, Roger 

Clefford, William SuUage, and Roger Benefeld, and carried 

captive to Pontefract Thomas earl of Lancaster, who there, in 

the presence of king Edward and his followers, suffered, along 

with five other barons, the penalty of death. This Thomas 

earl of Lancaster is said to have been illustrious for the 

miracles that he wrought \ 

Thejpassagc of Thereafter, in the year thirteen hundred and twenty- two, 

king info Scot- Edward raised an army of a hundred thousand fighting men, 

land^ndhis ^nd passed into Scotland, desirous to give battle. But the 

Scots fled from before his face, so that the king was com- 
pelled by famine to return. James Douglas and Thomas 
The Scots go Randolph, earl of Moray, forthwith march at the head of an 
^g?ui^°^ *° army into England, and plunder the country in all directions ; 

Northallerton and many other towns, as far as York, they 

burned to the ground. Edward gathered a great army against 

them, and on the fifteenth day after Michaelmas came face to 

face with the Scots near to the monastery of Beigheland (our 

The English people Call it Bieland), where the English were defeated. It 

John the Briton was in that battle that John the Briton, earl of Richmond % 

IS taken. ^j^^ holder at that time of the earldom of Lancaster, was taken 

prisoner by the Scots, and afterwards ransomed with a great 

^ Lancaster had governed, when he was in power, no better than the king ; 
but after his death, in a time of cattle-plague and famine, the people in their 
despair came to hold him for a martyr and a saint. See York Powell and 
Mackay*s Hist, of England^ Part i. pp. 213-215. Capgrave {b, 1393, </. 1464) 
says in his Chronicle (Rolls Series, p. 219) that in the year 131 5 * blod ran owt 
of the toumbe of Thomas duk of L^ncastir at Pounfreit ' ; and, as to the year 
1389 (p. 253), that ' this same year was Thomas of Lancastir canonized, for it 
was seid comounly that he schuld nevir be canonzied onto the time that tflle the 
juges that sat upon him were ded, and al her issew '. Barbour, a still earlier 
authority — for his Brus was written before Capgrave was born — has the follow- 
ing lines about Thomas of Lancaster : — 

* Men said syn eftir this Thomas 

That on this wis mad martyr was 

Was sanctit and gud mirakillis did, 

Bot invy syn gert tham be hid. 

Bot, quhethir he haly was or nane, 

At Pomfret thusgat was he slane. ' — Brus^ cxxxi. 83 sq, 

^ He was no ' earl ', but Sir Thomas of Richmond ; see Scala Cronica^ p. 143, 
as quoted in the Spalding Club ed. of The Brus^ p. 523. 


sum of money. He went over to France and never returned 

to England. The annals of the English then go on to tell how 

Andrew Herkelay was slain. They say, that is, that he went 

out to collect a large body of soldiers, in the king''s behalf, 

with the view of bringing succour to him against the Scots in 

the battle of Bieland, and that he bore himself in that business 

slothfully and negligently, inasmuch as he had taken bribes 

from James Douglas. The whole story is a dream — ^it has not 

even verisimilitude ; for the Scots had no such superabundance 

of money as to be in a position to bribe the English ; and 

James Douglas was the last man to adopt methods of this sort, 

a fighter he if ever there was a fighter, to whom the sword, 

not gold, was at all times the weapon he would choose to gain 

his end. It is besides very improbable that English Edward 

would attack the Scots unless supported by a numerous army. 

According to the true annals of the English, this Andrew was, The slaying 

in point of fact, but by no right and legal means, sentenced to Herkd^^ 

death by Edward ; for the friends of the earl of Lancaster and 

the foes of Andrew himself combined to turn the king against 


CHAP. VII. — Concerning Isabella, sister of the king of the Fraick, 
hom she was sent to France by her husband, the English king, and of 
her banishment there along with her son. Of the captivity of Edward, 
and the prophecies of Merlin ; further, of the passage of the Scots into 
England, and of their return from England, 

About the same time Edward cruelly ill-treated Isabella, Isabella, qua 
sister of the French king, and queen of England. At this the genf^f^^' ^ 
French king was very wroth, and sent heralds to the English French king. 
king, who were to deliver to him this message : That the king 
of England must either do fealty to him for Aquitaine or 
suifer loss of that territory. By the advice of Hugli Spenser 
the queen was sent into France, in the hope that she might 
hinder the war that appeared so like to break out between her 
brother and her husband ; but because she tarried too long in 
France, Edward the king's son besought his father for per- 
mission to go to France and bring back his most pious mother. 
To this the king willingly assented, but because they did not 



[book v. 

The English 
king sentences 
his wife and son 
to exile. 

They return 
without leave 

is taken. 

Some pro- 
phecies of 

Edward the 
Third begins to 
reign in the 
lifetime of 
Edward the 

at once obey his order for their return, he banished them from 
England. Notwithstanding this sentence of exile against 
Edward, queen Isabella, with her son Edward, John brother 
of the earl of Hainault, Edward Woodstock, earl of Kent, 
returned all of them to England, on the twenty-fourth day of 
September, in the year of grace one thousand three hundred 
and twenty-six ; and they had with them no more than fifty 
men in their company. That they dared to land in England 
with so small a following was a proof of hatred of the king and 
affection for the queen and her son. Edward of Carnarvon 
was in the end taken, and was lodged in the dungeons of the 
castle of Kenilworth, there to be in charge of the lord Henry, 
brother of the earl of Lancaster, who at that time was earl of 
Leicester. Edward the Third had bestowed upon him the earl- 
dom of Lancaster. Inasmuch as the king had caused Thomas 
earl of Lancaster to be put to death, it was presumed, and 
rightly presumed, that the strictest care would be exercised by 
the brother of the man who had thus come by his end. Hugh 
Spenser,WalterStapylton, bishop of Exeter,and John HarundeP, 
who had all been partisans of the king, were put to death. 

About this same Edward of Carnarvon the EngUsh histories 
like to recall certain prophecies of Merlin ; for Merlin 4eclared 
that the waters of the sea would flow over those who had 
been slain in the time of this Edward — which they interpret 
of the battle of Bannockbum. Manv of the men who fell 
in that battle, however, were drowned in a deep stream, and 
far more in the Forth, a most rapid river, where its 
waters mingle with the salt water of the sea. Merlin said 
further that in this Edward's days many stones would fall to 
the earth ; and this is interpreted of the Scots, who at that 
time levelled with the ground castles and cities. They attempt 
further to disentangle many more of Merlin's knotty sayings ; 
but I confess that I lay no great store by his misty dicta, for 
they are no more than mist in the clouds of the air *. 

The English deposed Edward of Carnarvon because he had 
followed the counsel of wicked men, and anointed as king the 
third Edward, otherwise called 'of Windsor"*, in the fifteenth 
year of his age, that is, in the same year in which he landed in 

^ i,e, Arundel. * Bk. Ii. ch. v., noit ad Jin, 


England from France. Edward the Second, the father, always 
desired to have an interview with his wife, and with Edward 
the Third, his son ; but such interview he never attained to. 
Perchance the son suspected that his father would seek to have 
the crown again for himself — a request which sons are not in 
the habit of granting to their fathers — nor yet fathers to their 
sons, though fathers have more affection for their sons than 
sons have for their fathers. Thereafter, says Caxton, the Scots 
gathered a large army, and, invading England, put all to fire 
and sword. They made their way as far as Stanhope in Wear- 
dale ^, and there they made a stand. Against them tlie third An army thar 
Edward now brouglit a numerous army ; nor, says Caxton once JJ^g to'CM?on 
more, was there ever seen a finer army since Brutus landed in *^f^ ^^ "^^ 
Britain — for it was made up of one hundred thousand English- 
men and foreigners. I cannot, however, give credence to this 
claim, because his father commanded a much larger force than 
this at Bannock burn. For fifteen days the Scots kept their 
station near a park, for by reason of the English they were 
unable to make their way out ; provision of food too began to 
fsdl them. The Scots"* position was defended on both sides ; on 
the one side was water, on the other the wood or park of Viri- 
dalia. Henry earl of Lancaster and John brother to the 
earl of Hainault gave their voice in favour of an attack upon 
the Scots by water, seeing that the stream was of no great 
depth ; but Roger Mortimer, as might have been expected, 
was of an opposite way of thinking — for was he not in the pay 
of the Scots ? — and when he was on patrol duty by night he 
allowed the Scots to slip away. But Caxton says last of all, 
that on the same night when the Scots made good their flight 
James Douglas attacked the army of the king with two hun- 
dred lances, that is, with two hundred horsemen (for a lance 
and a horseman mean with the Britons one and the same thing), 
and arrived as far as the king''s tent, and shouted sometimes 
Naward, Naward, but at other times A Douglas, A Douglas ; 
whereat the king and almost all the rest were affrighted ; but 
by God's help the king was neither slain nor yet taken by the 
Scots; and the night when all this took place was one of 
clearest moonlight. 

^ Viridalia. 

266 JOHN MAJOR'S HISTORY [book v. 

Caxton is I give you Caxton'^s very words. Now I do not think you 

* ' will easily prove that the Scots bribed the English, nor yet 

that they ever came to speech of Roger Mortimer. Unlikely 
too it is that the Scots should have slipped away by 
bright moonlight, and have escaped detection by at least 
a few of the patrols who had not been bribed, and who 
would surely have revealed the matter to the third Edward. 
Froissart. We have an account of this war written by Froissart, a his- 

torian of Hainault, who dedicated his work to the king of the 
English, and who drew his knowledge from John, brother to 
the earl of Hainault, and those who were along with him. His 
tendency was to magnify rather than to attenuate what made 
for the glory of the English ; and for this [reason it shall be 
my care to follow him to the letter, save for the turning of 
the French tongue, for he wrote in French, into Latin ; yet I 
will endeavour to reproduce the substance of his views rather 
than his words. 
The genius of Edward the Third was a man of a haughty spirit, and, rely- 
Third!^an/his ^"8 ^^ ^^^ counsel of those around him, he studied how he 
deeds. might inflict some overwhelming defeat upon the Scots. He 

sent messengers, therefore, to John of Hainault, with the 
prayer that he would come to his support, and for answer 
John brought to the help of Edward of England a body of 
five hundred horsemen ; from all quarters Edward got together 
One hundred *^ army of one hundred thousand men, and therewith made 
thousand men for the north toward the Scots boundaries. Now when Robert 
the English Bruce was ware of this, and turned in his mind how he was 
^"^' himself now stricken in years and sick in body, he bade Thomas 

Randolph and lord James Douglas to get together a goodly 
body of soldiers and invade Northumberland, trusting by a 
devastation of that region to withdraw the English army from 
the Scots — for Robert was a most far-seeing man. When 
Edward heard of the approach of the Scottish army, he sent 
his seneschal to see to the strengthening of Newcastle-upon- 
Tyne, and to Carlisle he sent the earl of Hereford. The Scots 
army was four-and-twenty thousand strong. Our chroniclers 
Twenty-four, or put the number at twenty thousand, neither more nor less ; 
sand'in the" but on this point it may be that credence should be given to 

wroy of the j^jj^ of Hainault rather than to the Scot ; for though the men 



of Hainault had kinship with the English, and had likewise 

brought them material support, yet in such a point as this 

their estimate may be taken as more likely to be impartial 

than that of either Scot or Englishman. Twenty thousand 

men then, or twenty-four thousand, the Scots had in their 

army — cavalry all of them. The nobles and the wealthy men 

among them were mounted on large and powerful horses, the 

common people upon small horses ; and they made no use of 

chariots, because Northumberland is for the most part a hilly 

country. But that race of the Scots, he says, has a most The hardiness 

singular endurance of hunger and thirst, and heat and cold. ^ ^*^® ^^^ *° 

They can live for a long time together, even their men of 

good nurture, upon the flesh of wild animals. For the Scots 

knew that of flesh they could always have abundance from the Their provision 

chase, and they therefore carry on the after-part of their saddle ^°^ ^^^^' 

a double sack of meal, along with a sort of wide iron plate or 

griddle, wherewith to make their bread. This griddle they How on an 

heat by laying it over a fire, and then upon the griddle they ^Swlhek^ ^^^ 

spread a very thin paste of flour^ ; and thus they bake their bread. 

bread just as though they had an oven. The whole of Nor- Cruelty of the 

thumberland they ravaged ; there was no village that they did 

not burn to ashes, nor indeed was there a single place up to 

within five leagues of Durham, where English Edward then 

abode, that escaped their universal flames. The English, who Forces of the 

were there in force, now became aware of the smoke. Their *''*si«h. 

numbers mounted to eight thousand armed horsemen, thirty 

thousand foot-soldiers, four-and-twenty thousand bowmen, and 

in addition they had of serving-men a multitude, who carried 

provision in plenty. They drew up their army in three lines. 

Each line consisted of two wings, and each wing counted five 

thousand armed men. In this order they followed up the 

Scots by marching in that direction whence the smoke from 

the Scottish fires proceeded ; but though they pursued the 

search till evening they did not discover the Scots. They 

therefore pitched their camp in a glade close by a stream, that 

the wearied might find the better refreshment, and that they 

might thus await the arrival of their baggage-wagons, which 

were not able to travel so fast as themselves. During the 

^ Cf. ante, p. ii. 

258 JOHN MAJOR'S HISTORY [book v. 

whole of that day the Scots were giving to the flames all that 
they could lay hands on, and this they did even at no great 
distance from the English army ; yet, by reason of the rough- 
ness of the road, the English could not reach them. The 
dawn of the next day found the English force, drawn up in 
line as before, again in vain pursuit of the Scots until the 
evening ; and they thus had to pitch their camp again. 
The English- Meanwhile the leaders amongst the English consult what had 
coimd?^^ * best be done, for they were daily witnesses of this general con- 
flagration by the Scots, and were yet unable by any ordinary 
means to reach the offenders. When they had therefore taken 
good counsel together, they determined upon this plan : To 
retreat in the direction of Scotland as far as the river Tyne, 
judging that the Scots would there, under pressure of hunger, 
be driven to cross the river, when they should be able to inflict 
upon them, in the very act of passage, a crushing defeat. After 
midnight, therefore, leaving carriages and baggage behind them, 
they make for the Tyne with all speed, and, carrying with them 
none but the smallest provision, marched the whole of the 
following day without laying down their arms, and did not 
break their fast except on the morsel of bread that each had 
with him. At sunset only did they allow themselves that 
benison of sleep which well-wearied mortals more than all the 
rest delight in. On the following day they reached the Tyne, 
but the river was in so great a flood that they were unable to 
cross it. There for a space of three days, suffering from pri- 
vation of every sort, they were compelled to pitch their tents. 
When at last these three days of hunger and general misery 
were behind them, it was determined by certain amongst the 
English, who had not suffered from the attacks of the Scots, 
that a march should be made either to Newcastle, which was 
distant thirteen leagues, or to Carlisle, which was distant 
eleven leagues, for in the neighbouring villages it was known 
that the Scots had left no provisions behind them, and the 
inhabitants of these villages were scattered far and wide, wan- 
dering in bands in search of food. They lost no time, there- 
fore, in sending to those cities for food and drink, and on the 
following day they had all they wanted to their heart's desire : 
but of the Scots no single scrap of news. On the eighth day 


the king ordered it to be proclaimed by public edict that if 
any one should bring the king certain intelligence of the Scots 
he should be rewarded by the king with a perpetual pension of 
one hundred pounds. Which heard, fifteen active and able- 
bodied knights took the road, or where there was no road 
made one, in full chase, roving here and there and everywhere, 
if only they might light upon those Scots. The army mean- 
while maintained its position in a well-watered meadow about 
two leagues from the Tyne, but the neighbouring villages had 
been wasted of all provision, and they remained there for three 
days. At the end of that time, one who had gone in quest of 
the Scots returned with the news that they were distant at 
that moment not more than three leagues from the king and 
his army, and with a light heart were waiting the arrival of 
the English, in all readiness to come to battle with them. 

Forthwith the army was drawn up, as before, in three lines, 
and they followed the indications of that explorer towards the 
Scots. About mid-day they came in sight of the Scots posted 
on a rising ground, and the Scots at the same time caught 
sight of them. So soon as the Scots became aware of their 
approach they divided their army into three parts, and occu- 
pied both sides of the hill and the passage of the river as well, 
which they call a ford. When the English now considered 
their position, they judged that they could not, without 
evident jeopardy, attack them, and they therefore again 
pitched their camp. To the Scots the English king soon The demands 
sent a messenger, demanding that they should come down ^^^^ Enghsi 
into a proper plain and fight there. But the Scots made The answer o 
answer that since the English were in three times greater ^^® ^^^' 
force than the Scots, and likewise in every way better fur- 
nished, they preferred to maintain a more open position, so 
that their inferiority in number might be compensated by a 
natural environment that was better adapted for defence ; if, 
then, the English king desired to fight them, he might try his 
fortune as they were, since he was supposed to be ambitious of 
military renown. Thus the day came to an end, and as dark- 
ness drew on some of the Scots went on night-guard, in case 
an attempt should be made by the English to cross the river ; 
the remnant kept their place upon the hill. They lighted 

260 JOHN MAJOR'S HISTORY [book v. 

great bonfires, but throughout the night miglit be heard the 
sound, deafening, terrific, of their bugles. The English army, 
too, had its sentinels posted for the night, and thus, without 
coming to the test of arms, the hostile forces spent three full 
days, with no incident of war save that two soldiers, for the 
trial of their strength, entered the lists of combat, and in 
sight of both armies emptied each of them the saddle of his 
adversary. But when, on the morning of the fourth day, 
Phoebus had risen above the horizon, and the English turned 
their eyes to the hill which the Scots had occupied at the first, 
no enemy was to be seen, since in the silence of night the Scots 
had carried themselves to another hill. The English king 
thereupon ordered scouts to go in search of the Scots, and 
learned from them how the Scots had planted themselves on 
another hill upon the same river. As soon as they had this 
news, the English hastened in that direction, and pitched their 
camp on a hillock opposite the entrenchment of the Scots. 
Douglas, his Now it happened that one night James Douglas, with two 

doughty deed. hm^Jred picked horsemen, crossed the river, invaded the 
English camp, and, making his way to the tent of the king, 
cut through two of the ropes which held it, after which, and 
when he had slain three hundred of the Englisli, he returned, 
with the loss of a few men only, to his own quarters. This 
calamity made its own impression upon the English, and 
henceforth they were more careful in their choice of sentinels 
by night. For eighteen days the two armies maintained their 
position without any engagement of importance. But at 
length, on the night of the eighteenth day, a Scot was taken 
by the English patrol and brought before English Edward, 
and he revealed to Edward this fact, that a public order had 
gone forth to the effect that all were to hold themselves ready 
for battle under the standard of James Douglas, but whither 
the generals were aiming to lead them, or what this might 
portend, he declared he knew not. The English, therefore, 
lost no time in making a threefold division of their army ; at 
the shallows of the river they placed a most diligent niglit- 
watch, and during all the hours of darkness that followed their 
eyes knew no sleep. For the remembrance of the calamity of 
the night before was so full of terror that they doubted not 


the Scots meditated on that night too a repetition of the 
attack. Great fires also they kept up the whole night through, 
that they might more surely detect any movement of the 
enemy. It was toward dawn that two Scots trumpeters were 
taken by the English patrols, and these men, when they were 
brought into the presence of English Edward, declared to him 
that the Scots had turned their steps homeward, * and we \ The return of 
they said, * were commanded to tell you so much as soon as |heirown^° 
day began to break, and of intent it is that we were taken country. 
prisoners, to the end you may follow them if you have a wish 
to fight \ Thereafter the English king takes counsel with his 
chief men ; and to this conclusion they came, that it would no 
way advantage the Englisli king to make haste after the Scots, 
for there would be risk of no small loss were his army, all 
weary with its march, to come to battle with the Scots. It 
was wiser, they judged, to let the Scots army depart with 
impunity than to expose the whole English army to the hazard 
of such a conflict. When the English arrived at the camping- The baggage ( 
ground of the Scots, they found the carcases of five hundred behind with 
wild animals, such as deer and the like; for the Scots had killed *"*«^^' 
them lest they should fall, a living booty, into the hands of 
the English. Besides these, they found three hundred stewing- stcwing-pans 
pans, made from the hairy hide of animals, in which the,Scots ™adeofhide. 
were used to cook their flesh food. They found too a thou- 
sand spits in use for roasting meat, and ten thousand shoes 
made from undressed leather with the hair on, which the Scots 
had taken to use when their own shoes had been worn out. 
Further, they found five naked Englishmen, bound to trees, 
with their legs broken. These they unbound. Following the 
counsel of those about him, Edwar^ disbanded his whole army 
and returned to London. This narrative I have taken to the 
letter from Froissart ^. 

^ Major must have founded this long narrative upon another recension of 
Froissart than that used by Buchon (Liv. I. ptie. i. chh. 29-44 ; vol. i. pp. 20 
32). In that text, e.^., the English find 400— not 300 — * chaudiferes faites de 
cuir, atout le poll ' : and the same text speaks of *cinq povres prisonniers anglois 
que les Escots avoient lies tous nuds aux arbres, par depit, et deux qui avoient 
les jambes brisees : si les deli^rent et laiss^rent aller '. 

262 JOHN MAJOR^S HISTORY [book v. 

CHAP. VIII. — Of the complaint made hy Edward the father, and 
how he was carried to another prison, where he was put to death with 
terrible tortures. 

It happened after this that Edward of Carnarvon was in 
Berkeley castle under guard of Maurice de Herkelay and John 
M actrevers ; to these Edward was ever complaining that 
neither his wife, the queen Isabella, nor yet his son Edward, 
was permitted to have speech with him. To this his guardians 
made answer : * The queen dreads lest you should take her life, 
and your son has the like fear.^ To this he of Carnarvon made 
the shrewd reply : * Am I not a prisoner, and altogether in your 
power, and the king'^s, and the queen'^s ? How then should I 
dare, or, daring it, be able to compass, any attempt upon their 
lives .^ And God knows that I have never harboured the 
thought of hurting in any wise either my wife or my son/ A 
Edward places little while hereafter, Edward of Windsor, by advice of Roger 

his father in ^ ./ o 

other custody. Mortimer, placed his father under the custody of Thomas 
Gournay and John Mactrevers in Corfe Castle : Herkelay he 
removed from his post of guardian. Now Edward, when he 
was once deposed, began to conceive for this castle such un- 
governable hate, as if it were even a poison^. One^^ night, 
jSdward is sub- on the prompting of Mortimer, they entered the chamber of 
torture^and Edward of Carnarvon, and, placing a thick plank upon his belly, 
slain. ^l^gy pressed the plank down upon him at each comer; there- 

after, inserting a kind of tube in his fundament, and keeping 
themselves some way removed from the same, they ran a spit 
of copper red-hot through the tube, and so burned and broke 
his vitals, yet so that the manner of his death should not be 
apparent. Great God ! what treason have we here ! what 
wickedness ! a crime indeed that no lapse of time, no punish- 
ment can expiate. And this they dared upon the person of 
their lord and king, and yet more, upon the prisoner for whose 
safe custody they were to answer. Here then you have the 
lamentable ending of Edward of Carnarvon, who in this point 
only sinned, that he followed the counsel of bad men, but was 

^ *Quam arcem tanquam toxicum Edwardus exauthoratus odio prosequutus 
est.* It was at Berkeley Castle, not at Corfe, that Edward the Second was 


otherwise a right-minded man and a brave soldier, clement too Edward is 
according to the measure of his own time ; therefore he may ^^ ' 
have his rightful place by the side of great kings. 

CHAP. IX. — Of the deeds of Robert Bruce, king of the Scots, and 
Edward the Third, king of the English ; likewise of the peace that was 
brought about through the marriage of their children; and of the death 
of Robert, 

Edward of Carnarvon, then, being dead, and Edward the 
Third, called of Windsor, reigning in his stead, I will leave to 
speak of English affairs for a little and return to Robert Bruce, 
from whom I made this digression. When Robert Bruce had Robert Bruce, 
suffered provocation at the hands of the English, he sent his 
two chief men, Thomas Randolph and James Douglas, with 
fifteen thousand picked soldiers of the Scots, into England, 
with the view of humbling the English ; and they went so far 
as the park in Viridalia, of which we have so lately been speak- 
ing. But as I have told the story of this expedition from the 
French narrative of the same by Froissart, I will say no more 
thereanent, but pass at once to other matters. 

In the year one thousand three hundred and twenty-six, 
Edward the Third and Isabella, his mother, sent a solemn Edward the 
embassy to Scotland ; and Robert Bruce granted audience to The English 
the same at Edinburgh. It was the business of this embassy to ^^^^^^7- 
propose to give the sister of Edward in marriage to the son of 
king Robert, with renunciation every way of that claim of 
superiority which had been advanced by the English over the 
kingdom of the Scots. Some reparation, however, they did 
seek from Robert for the serious losses which he had inflicted 
on the English. And so they came to an agreement; and Peace is con- 
Robert Bruce counted out thirty thousand marks and gave basis of 
them to the English, and for his son David, a lad of five years, carriage. 
he took the lady Joanna, sister to the Englisli king, to wife. 
That notion of an English superiority the Scots at all times 
have spumed, for never at any time have they been subject to 
any but their own proper king. This notwithstanding, to the 
end they might maintain a state of peace and live quietly with 



[book v. 

The death of 
Robert Bruce 
and his eulogy. 

An eulogy of 



Robert's will 
and testament. 

their neighbours, they sought to obtain the seal thereto of the 
English king and state, and what they sought they obtained. 

It was three full years after the settlement of this peace 
that, at Cardross, in the four-and-twentieth year of his reign, 
Robert Bruce went the way of all flesh. A king he was 
worthy to sway the mightiest empire, and as a man one whom, 
in the matter of a genius for war, I would place even before 
William Wallace. And though William Wallace was more 
highly endowed in point of stature and bodily strength than 
Robert — for in gifts of this sort he surpassed, in my opinion, 
Alexander of Macedon himself^ — ^yet not on that account is he 
to be reckoned as having superiority in matters of war. But 
herein William is indeed worthy to be extolled ; that, sprung 
as he was from a mean house, he yet grew to be so great a man, 
with none to thank therefor but his own right arm and his own 
genius, and that he drove the English out of Scotland. Yet even 
here you shall find Robert Bruce not less admirable, though he 
were born of a noble house and had amongst his kindred by 
blood or marriage nobles many a one, — for after a beginning 
of disaster, when he had lost all that he had, when he had not 
a friend to stand by him, he remained ever of the same un- 
conquered spirit, and drove, in the end, out of Scotland the 
Scots who favoured English rule and the nobles of England ; 
twice he came to close quarters with the English king in 
conflicts difficult and formidable, once in Scotland, the second 
time in England ; and as often did he defeat the Englishman. 
His subjects knew what it was to have just laws administered 
in their integrity ; many changes of policy or government he 
made worthy of a king, and these remain amongst the Scots to 
the present day. All this notwithstanding, I do not prefer 
Robert before Kenneth, Gregory, David, or the Alexanders ; 
nor, on the other hand, do I prefer any one of them before 
him ; they possessed, each of them, their own peculiar excel- 
lencies, wherefore I will leave them all in their proper parity 
of place. 

In his last testament Robert is said to have given these 
injunctions : first, that the king of the Scots should never 

^ Alexander the Great is generally reckoned among the great men who were 
of small stature. 


renounce possession of the Scots islands, nor make grant of the 
same to his nobles^; and that provision perchance he made 
because it is a matter of utmost difficulty to reach those 
islands when there is need to punish transgressors; and for 
that reason they rise easily in revolt against their kings. 

Secondly : it was provided for in that testament that the 
Scots should never grant any long or fixed date to the English 
when they were about to engage in war with that nation ; and 
for this injunction cause may be found in the fact that the 
English draw paid forces in plenty from outside their own people, 
and these men are skilled in the use of engines of war. The 
English too pay heavy taxes to their king for purposes of war, 
and he is thus enabled to pass by all that are unfit, and to 
choose only the best in arms, while at the same time he can 
spend liberally upon the equipment of his army. In a long 
continued war he thus depends upon completeness of arrange- 
ment and discipline rather than upon the actual strength and 
prowess of his soldiers. On the other hand, in time of war tlie 
common people among the Scots contribute absolutely nothing 
to the expenses of the king ; but rather these go forth with their 
king the fit with the unfit alike, so that no discipline is observed ; 
nor are trained soldiers only chosen, and men unfit to bear 
arms rejected ; wherefore my wonder is rather that now and 
again in a great war the Scots have ever defeated the English. 
If those who are not fit to bear arms would but tax themselves 
in order tliat the strong and able-bodied only should be chosen, 
the Scots would more often win the day. And in proof of 
this I would point out that where tlie Scots have found them- 
selves in conflict with the English suddenly and hand to hand, 
they are wont to be oftener conquerors than conquered. 

Thirdly : He made bequest of his heart, that it sliould be 
borne with him by some good soldier setting forth to fight 
against the infidel ; and this charge he gave to James Douglas, 
in whom lie most confided ; — for before this he had made a 
vow that in liis own person he would go forth to fight against 
the infidel. But though he went not, he was far from com- 
mitting any sin, since for the good peace of his kingdom, 
which only thus could have been secured with any likelihood, 

^ Cf. antCf p. 38. 

266 JOHN MAJOR^S 1IIS1X)RY [book v. 

This purpose he might well have stayed at home. Yet I cannot approve 
dis^ssSf *^ ^^^ purpose, seeing that it carried with it the absence from his 
country of such an one as James Douglas ; for the king should 
have borne in mind that, the fact of the mutual marriage not- 
withstanding, the English were still panting for the kingdom of 
Scotland, and he knew that the presence of James Douglas was 
of the utmost advantage to the kingdom, inasmuch as he 
was devoted in no common measure to Thomas Randolph. 
But perchance you will urge that, acting thus, Robert showed 
the penetration of his judgment, feeling that fortune has no 
room for two men where these two are equal, and such I 
hold these men to have been ; and thus, taking the fairest 
opportunity he could, he sent James Douglas beyond the 
kingdom. And if he acted from this motive, he is not to be 
censured ; for in the face of a possible civil war his conduct is 
not to be called imprudent; yet, inasmuch as the steadfast 
courage of the man was known, and his loyal devotion to the 
welfare of the kingdom had been tried so often, I cannot help 
thinking that it would have been better had James Douglas 
remained at home. 

CHAP. X. — Of the wise regency of Scotland at the hands of Thomas 
Randolph, and his end through the treachery of a monk, 

A law made by After the death of Robert Bruce, Thomas Randolph exer- 
° ^ ' cised wise rule in Scotland, and throughout the whole kingdom 
administered a perfect justice. He made a law that if any 
horseman in dismounting from his horse should have made 
fast his bridle to the saddle, and the bridle came thereafter 
to be stolen, then the sheriff of that place should be respon- 

A proper sible for the theft ; likewise in the matter of plough-irons ; 

j^JJ§^*° and in the end the sheriff might recover payment from 

the king. Now it once came to pass that a certain country 
fellow removed his own plough-irons, and made demand of 
their value in money from the sheriff, who thereupon in- 
stituted the most thorough search for the author of the 
crime; and in the end the very countryman who laid the 
complaint was found to be the guilty person ; and when he 


confessed to the crime he was hanged.^ The cause of rich 
and poor Randolph weighed in equal scales without favour of 
person : homicide he visited not with a fine of money, but 
with the extreme penalty, lest otherwise occasion might be 
given for the perpetration of homicide. For though by money 
the royal purse may grow heavier, yet God is thereby offended, 
a way is opened for assassination, justice suffers injury, the 
king is contemned, and frequently comes thereby to his end. 

And to say in few words what I think of this man's rule, I 
can recall no king since Brutus landed in Britain who governed 
more wisely than he. In war he was of all men the bravest ; The eulogy 
and though bodily strength be no proof, indeed, of the posses- °^ Randolph, 
sion of that moral fortitude of which I now speak, yet was he 
in his outward man eminently well-favoured, and of great 
strength ; yet he was far more conspicuous in that fortitude 
of soul which constitutes the only true virtue. Such was the 
wide-spread fame of this man amongst the English, that though 
they often turned a greedy eye towards the kingdom of Scotland, 
by reason of the tender years of its king, yet, thinking of 
Thomas Randolph, they judged it best to maintain a state of 
peace; for they felt that during his lifetime it would be a 
fruitless task to try to possess themselves of Scotland. 

At last it happened that a certain monk of England, who Randolph is 
claimed to be a physician, or one skilled in drugs, found his through the 
way into Scotland, and there contracted a somewhat close ^"^^^7 ^^ 
intimacy with the regent, and one day indeed gave him, in 
place of medicine, poison. The action of the poison was not 
immediate and momentary ; rather did it gnaw the vitals step 
by step. All this was part of the plan of this perfidious monk, 
in order that he might safely return to his own country. Now, 
when he was once returned thither, the guardian and regent of 
the kingdom began to pine away more and more day by day, 
and the report even of his death, albeit a false one, reached 

^ This is also the first incident of Randolph*s wardenship narrated by Wyn- 
toun {Cronykil of Scotland^ Bk. viii. ch. xxiv., vol. ii. p. 377, Laing'sed.): 

* A gredy carle swne efftyr wes 
Byrnand in swylk gredy nes. 
That his plw-ymys hym-selff stall, 
And hyd thame in a pete-pot all. ' 

268 JOHN MAJOR^S HISTORY [book v. 

the ears of the English king; wherefore he bethought him 

that the time was opportune for making an attempt to add 

Scotland to his empire, and from all parts he brought together 

a huge army, and directed his course toward the marches of 

Randolph's Scotland. Thomas Randolph, on the other hand, with the 

wSnsSwith poison working in his body, and borne in a litter, hastened 

poison, for bis ^Jth a numerous army against the En£:lish king. He, when 

country. "^ *' '^ o » 

he was aware of the approach of the Scots, sent a herald to 
make inquiry whether the guardian of Scotland was still in 
life ; and when the guardian learned so much, he attired him- 
self magnificently, left his litter, caused himself to be placed 
upon a horse, and by the expression of his countenance tried 
to dissemble his malady. He then made known to the English 
herald that he and the Scots were full of eagerness to put 
Edward^s courage to the proof; and thereupon the herald 
departed, laden with costly gifts, and declared to Edward that 
the guardian of Scotland was indeed in life, and even in the 
best of health, and suffering from no disease ; yet was he 
interrupted as he spoke by that evil-hearted religious, who 
called out, * Though his belly were of iron he shall not escape 
death \ The English king, however, was counselled that it 
would be his wisest course not to break the peace that had 
been agreed on, since otherwise he should find himself involved 
in a doubtful contest with a warlike people, under the leading 
of an illustrious general, in whose good fortune the whole army 
had no small confidence, whom every single man loved as a 
father, and whom the universal voice proclaimed as the father 
of his country. Edward, therefore assented to this reasoning, 
disbanded his army, and went to London, while the finger of 
scorn was pointed at that religious as a liar, whose utterances 
had proved themselves without foundation. Yet while the 
The d th f gu^^^dian was being home in his litter toward Edinburgh, the 
Randolph. pestilence within him gathered strength, and at Musselburgh 
iseuogy. j^^ j.^j jj^ received honourable burial at Dunfermline by 

the side of kings and regents. This man I cannot count as 
inferior to William Wallace ; nay, I will not give Robert 
Bruce himself a place before him, when I recall the moral 
fortitude, the strong sense of justice, the conspicuous virtues 
of every sort by which he was distinguished. 


CHAP. XL — Of the brave deeds of James Douglas and his death ; 
and of the succession of Edward Baliol in Scotland, his victory, his coro- 
nation, and,Jinally, his flight, 

James Douglas, when he went on his journey to western 
Hesperia^ with William St. Clair and Robert Logan, both 
knights, for his squires, carried round his neck in a golden 
casket the heart of Robert Bruce; and there, bravely fight- 
ing against the Agarenes ^, he fell. It was after this that ^^V^*^ 
Donald earl of Mar was chosen guardian and governor of Donald be- 
Scotland ; and in his time, that is, in the one thousand three of sStSnid"* 
hundred and thirty-second year from the Virgin'^s travail, 
Edward Baliol, a Scot, but at the instigation and with the 
support of the English king, made a descent upon Scotland, BaiioVs 
claiming that the succession to the throne lay rightfully with 
him. He came to Scotland with no more than six hundred 
men for a following, and, relying more upon the help of those 
Scots who afterwards were killed in the Black Parliament^ 
than upon his own kindred, he got as far as Dupplin. Against 
him marched Patrick Dunbar, earl of March, with thirty 
thousand men, and the earl of Mar also with a large number at 
his back ; and they had scorn of Edward when they saw how 
small a troop he had along with him, and so did not place a 
proper watch by night. But when Edward was ware of this, 
he fell upon them by night when they were heavy with sleep, 
and slew them as though they had been so many swine, not a 
man of them resisting. Then Baliol, beinff a man of a high Baiiol's happy 

... . augury. 

courage, rejoiced greatly at this issue, and taking this happy 

beginning of the contest as a good omen, he ventured to fight 

with the rest of the nobles in broad daylight. He took his 

stand in a position of strong natural defence, and the Scots 

rushed upon him, in great numbers indeed, but with a complete 

absence of order and discipline. In this battle Edward Baliol 

came oft* victor ; the earl of Mar and Alexander Eraser Baliol's victory. 

perished, with many of the nobility, and Duncan earl of Fife 

was taken prisoner. Edward Baliol next took the fortified 

town of Saint John after a slight resistance. Duncan earl of His successes. 

* i.e, Spain. - i,e. The children of Hagar=the Saracens. 

' See antCy p. 245. 


Fife and William St Clair, bishop of Dunkeld, then took the 
oath of fealty to him, and by their help he was invested with 

oronation. the kingly crown at Scone. Thereupon David Bruce, a boy of 
nine years, fled by the direction of his guardians to France, 

escapes taking with him his wife, the sister of the English king ; and 
at the hands of the French king he met with an honourable 
reception. There he found a shelter for eight years and more. 
Alas for the shame, the grief of it ! Where then was Thomas 
Randolph, where James Douglas then, to stand by the son of 
Robert Bruce in the hour of his distress ? Surely the warriors 
were the same as those whom Robert Bruce and Thomas Ran- 
dolph had never failed to lead to victory ; the same indeed, — 
but it was the leader who was wanting ; and so they did but 
little in the war that is worthy to be told. We read of that 
army of Alexander the Macedonian, which, while he led it, 
never knew defeat, that after his death it was conquered with 
ease. Wherefore you may see that just as the best of generals 
is a cripple if he have not troops whose delight is in the 
conflict — in just like case is the best of armies without a proper 
general. So that Caesar said rightly enough, that he would go 
in the first place to the western parts of Spain, there to take 
captive an army that had no leader, and after that a leader who 
had no army. But in the following year the town of Perth was 
taken by James and Simon Fraser and Robert Keith. At the 
storming of that town there were taken prisoner Duncan earl 
of Fife, guardian under Edward Baliol, and likewise Andrew of 
Tulibard, who, when he was found guilty of treason against the 
king, rightly underwent the penalty of death. In that same 
year John Randolph earl of Moray, Archibald Douglas who 
was brother to the lord James Douglas, and Simon Fraser lay in 
wait to seize Edward Baliol, who had got so large a number of 
Scots nobles to accept his terms of peace ; among them he had 
somehow deflected Alexander Bruce earl of Carrick and the 
lord of Galloway. But now he began suddenly to be attacked 

[flics, and on every side, and lost no time in seeking safety in flight, even 

ends are ^j^ ^ bridlelcss liorse ^. Of his supporters tliere fell on that day 

* Cf. Wyntoun's Cronykii, Laing's ed., vol. ii. p. 395 :— 

Bot the Ballyoll his gat is gane, 
On a barme hors with leggys bare ; 
i.e, probably, a horse without a saddle. Leslie (Dalrymple's trans. 'pt iii. p. 15), 
says * the Balic . . . bangs vp on a horsse *. 


Henry Baliol, who made most vigorous resistance, and even in 
his flight put more than one of his pursuers to death, likewise 
John Mowbray, Walter Gumming, Richard Kirkby, knight. 
In this battle the earl of Carrick was taken prisoner, and after- 
wards liberated by the earl of Moray. 

Chap. XII. — Of the attack made upon the Scots by Edward of 
England and Edward Baliol ; of the siege of Berwick, and how it was 
in the aid taken by storm after a battle in which very many of the Scots 
lost their lives. 

When Edward of England had knowledge of the divisions 
and civil war which were then lively among the Scots, he 
thought that the time was fit for gaining Scotland to himself, 
and disregarding at once his tie by marriage with that country, 
the oath that he had sworn, and every obligation of good " 
faith, he collected a huge army of Scots and English ; for in 
this war he had upon his side Edward Baliol and those who 
ranged themselves with him. In renown, as this world counts 
renown, Edward was illustrious, but a higher kind of renown 
would have been his had Robert Bruce or Thomas Randolph 
been his foe ; as things now were, the Scots might have been 
counted as already vanquished through the dissensions among 

There were two parties, almost equal one with another, who Scottish 
with some show of right claimed the throne, and various ^^ *°°^ 
homicides were among them mutually committed; both parties 
were aiming at supreme power. Edward, therefore, judging 
that a settled peace could never be brought about between 
them, showed his shrewdness in attaching himself to the party 
of Edward Bruce, as being the weaker of the two, thinking he 
should thus best deal destruction on the Scots. Yet Baliol, as 
is plain from what has been said above, had no shadow of a 
claim — unless such an one as might be urged in a sophistical 
fashion ; and therefore you shall find all the better men active 
upon the side of Bruce. The supporters of David Bruce, when 
they considered the guilefulness and craft of the English king, 
gave the keeping of the castle of Berwick to the earl of the 
Marches, and of its town to Alexander Seton. It was at this 
time that Andrew earl of Moray was taken prisoner by 



[book v. 

Andrew, earl of 
Moray, is taken 

Berwick is 


fovemor of 

The hostage 
is hanged« 

The masculine 
courage of a 

Battle of 

Edward Baliol and tlie English near to the Marches; and 
about the same time William Douglas, lord of Liddesdale, who 
had been taken by the English, was ransomed. A short time 
after the investment of Berwick, on the day before the ides of 
April, the English king arrived on the spot, and made an 
attack upon the town both by land and by sea. But the town 
was manfully defended by Seton and his men, who burned the 
ships and inflicted no small damage upon the besiegers ; but in 
the storming of the ships a son of lord Seton was taken by the 
English. This terrible siege lasted till St. Magdalen^s day 
without a break. 

In the end the Scots made this covenant with the English : 
that if within a given time they were unable to succour the 
town, they would then make surrender to the English ; and 
in security for this obligation lord Seton placed his eldest 
son in their hands as a hostage. Further, after the capture 
of Andrew of Moray, Archibald Douglas, the chief of the 
family of Douglas, was chosen guardian of Scotland. He 
got together an army of sixty thousand men, supporters of 
David Bruce, meaning to make therewith invasion of England, 
and thus to raise the siege. But he unwisely listened to the 
suasion of the men within the city when they called on him 
rather to fight ; and when he did not arrive punctually to the 
hour, the English leader demanded the surrender of the place, 
on the ground of the covenant that had been made between 
them. Now when the men within considered the close neigh- 
bourhood of a Scottish army, they did not surrender the town. 
In answer to this the enemy hanged their hostage, Thomas 
Seton, on a lofty gallows, in the sight of both his father and 
his mother, thinking that his parents, and, most of all, his fond 
mother, would be moved, by the death of their son and heir, 
to the surrender of the town. But this brave-hearted woman 
preferred the safety of the town and the liberty of her country 
to the life of her son ; and to her husband, while her son was 
ascending the gallows, she spoke these words: *We are 
voung — we have other children — let us patiently bear the 
death of one.^ 

In defence of the city a battle called of Halidon was fought. 
Edward of England and Edward Baliol took up a position 


which was every way favourable, for it was upon a height ; 
while the supporters of David Bruce occupied a hillock, 
whence they must go down into the valley and ascend the 
other height in face of the enemy when it came to a battle. The 
first indeed held the position of strength ; and the more cautious 
amongst the Scots were opposed to the risk of battle in that 
place, and counselled rather an invasion of England, where, 
with fire and sword, they might waste the surrounding country, 
and thus force the English to withdraw from the blockade. In 
the end, however, they followed the counsel of James Douglas, 
the guardian, a man in such a case as this rashly daring rather 
than brave ; but, being guardian, they assented to him. The 
battle then is begun ; and as the armed men were striving to 
climb the flank of the other hill, many of them fell, in the 
shower of stones that were rolled down upon them ; one of the 
enemy indeed sufficed to bar the way to four who were climb- 
ing ; and so it was that in a bloodless battle the best men who 
followed the fortunes of David Bruce lost their lives; and 
among them the chief were these: Archibald Douglas, the The fllustrious 
guardian ; James, John, and Alan Stuart, all brothers, and ^^^ ^ ^ ^^^ 
cousins-german of David Bruce, as well as being cousins- 
german of Robert Stuart, afterward king of the Scots ; Hugh 
earl of Ross, wearing the shirt of Saint Duthac^ (which, on 
the death of the earl, is said to have been restored — an example, 
this, of English courtesy — to the town of Tain); Kenneth, 
earl of Sutherland ; Alexander Bruce, earl of Carrick ; Andrew, 
James, and Simon Eraser, all brothers, with many other nobles. 
After this battle Berwick was surrendered to the English ; the Berwick smeD- 
earl of March and the lord Seton are forced to swear fidelity to ^^^J^ ^^ 
the English king and Edward Baliol ; and so it came to pass 
that almost all the supporters of David Bruce were destroyed, 
or — ^if they happened to have saved their lives — were compelled 
to desert him. Some of our countrymen, on the strength of 
an old prophecy — I know not truly what or whence — declare 

^ The shirt of Saint Duthac, to which marvellous powers were ascribed, was, 
according to the Rev. W. Taylor {/Researches into the History of Tain, 1882, p. 
42), preserved in the Church of St. Duthac, and worn by the earl of Ross when 
he went to war. The story, told by the BoUandists (March 8) of the burning 
coal carried without injury in his bosom by Saint Duthach as a boy may have 
given rise to the attribution of a peculiar virtue to his shirt 




that in the same place there shaD some day be fought a battle 
lucky for the Scots, fraught with disaster to the English ; but 
to prophecies of this sort I confess that I attadi a very slender 
measure of credence. 

CHAP. XllL— Of the Itfrmmy of Baliol in Scoilamd ; ofkisoppra- 
nan of David, and the accession of Robert Stuart to the side ofDamd. 

Itettoi occopies After the battle of Halidon Hill in the neighbourhood of 
^^^^^**^ Berwick, Edward Baliol was put in possession of all the m<»e 

strongly fortified places in Scotland, and the English king 
fbe Engiiih' returned. In all this the Englishman acted from no virtuous 
JJ^^""** or kindly motive; we may safely presume that Baliol made 
him a secret promise to hold the kingdom from him. For if 
the question be put why he should have given his support to 
Baliol, who was destitute of any real claim, and utterly passed 
by David Bruce to whom he had given his own sister in mar- 
riage, I can find and make none other answer than this:, that 
he saw David Bruce to have the larger and stronger following 
amongst the Scots, and had no hope of being able to use him 
toward the accomplishing of his own ends in Scotland, while 
under cover of Edward Baliol he might, he thought, preserve 
some kind of footing there. But, whatever may have been the 
Difflinmionof truth in the matter, the following of David Bruce had dwindled 
inJ^'* ^^^^^^' to such a degree that in all Scotland there remained no more 
The strongholds than four strongholds which owned his sway, to wit, Dunbarton, 
fS^ Davidf '^ of which Malcolm Fleming was the keeper ; Lochleven, which 

was held by Alan de Veypont ; Kildrummy, in the hands of 
Christiana Bruce, and Urquhart, in the hands of Thomas 
Lauder. But in the year of the redemption of the world the 
thirteen hundred and thirty-fourth, seeds of a fresh quarrel 
began to sprout at Perth ; for the lord Henry de Beaumont, 
David earl of Athole, and Richard Talbot, wished to give 
precedence to the daughters of the brother of Alexander 
Mowbray over Alexander himself. Edward Baliol took the 
part, in this quarrel, of Alexander. Poor Edward had for- 
gotten that of the wise man: *He who gives judgment between 
two of his friends will hardly avoid to offend one of them ; 
whereas he who gives judgment between enemies will gain a 


friend."* The end was that those three persons of importance 
were highly indignant, and went to their respective homes. 
Talbot made all haste toward England, but was taken in 
Lothian ; Henry de Beaumont hastened into Buchan in the 
direction of Dundark, whose fortress he restored, and he came 
to bear rule in all Buchan. Andrew of Moray laid siege to 
Henry in Dundark,and forced him to abandon that stronghold 
and flee into England. The earl of Athole, however, withdrew 
to Lochindorb, and Edward Baliol betook himself to Berwick. 
Edward Baliol then, dreading the revolt of these nobles, gave 
dismissal to Alexander Mowbray, in order that he might gain 
the alliance of the rest. Upon those earls he bestowed the 
whole lands of the seneschal of Scotland. Whereupon Alex- 
ander Mowbray, when he had parted from Baliol, adhered to 
Andrew of Moray. Baliol then began to hold all Scotland at 
his will and pleasure. 

The lord Stuart, after David Bruce the rightful heir to 
Scotland, in his fear of Edward Baliol fled to Dunbarton, and 
received from Malcolm Fleming a kind and friendly welcome. 
Further, in the following year, English Edward invaded 
Scotland with a large army. Edward Baliol had a meet- 
ing with him, and these two appointed David earl of Athole 
to be lieutenant of Scotland, and a short while thereafter 
English Edward departed into England, taking Edward Baliol 
with him. From this proceeding I gather that Edward of Edward of 
Windsor aimed at keeping hold of Scotland for himself, since on the kingdom 
he carried off* Edward Baliol into England, even then when ®^ Scotland, 
this latter seemed to be strongly hated in Scotland. All the 
lands of the Stuart and of the Cummings of Bute the earl of 
Athole now fastened upon for himself. 

At this time there was not a person who in open fashion 
acknowledged himself a subject of David Bruce, unless you David is looked 
except little lads who in their play would always say that of £ kS^om. 
king David Bruce was their king^ Robert Stuart began 

^ Cf. Wyntoun*s Cronykil^ Bk. vill. ch. xxix., vol. ii. p. 413, Laing*s ed. : 

* Thus wes the kynryk off Scotland 
Sa hale in Inglis mennys hand, 
That nane durst thaim than wythsay 
(At swa gret myscheffe than war thay), 

276 JOHN MAJOR^S HISTORY [book v. 

to chafe at this assumption of a claim to his lands which 
had been made by David earl of Athole, and sent a mes- 
senger to the lord of Lochaw, Campbell was his name, be- 
seeching him to send an armed force to his succour. Where- 
upon Campbell came with four hundred men, and together 
they laid siege to, and in the end they stormed, the castle of 
Dunhowm. And when the men of Bute who had been reared 
under the Stuarts came to hear of this, they flocked to him in 
crowds, as to their true and rightful lord. And when Alan 
Lile, the lieutenant, came in turn to know what had happened, 
he aimed to cut them off, as they marched, with a body of 
soldiers, and so to destroy them ere they had been furnished 
with arms. But when those who were called Brandan'^s serving- 
men saw this, they made for a heap of stones which they found 
close by, and with all their might they showered stones, as it 
were hail, upon the lieutenant; him indeed they stoned to 

rbe slaying of death, and those that were with him they put to the rout. 

tenant ' For the service that they had rendered they prayed their lord 
the Stuart that he would hold them free of multure dues*; and 
to this petition the Stuart, as was right, consented. Soon 
afterward Thomas Bruce earl of Carrick, William Carruther, 
and many others, joined themselves to the Stuart. 

CHAP. Xiy.— Of the return of earl Randolph to Scotland; of the 
choice of guardians, the captivity of one, and the brave deeds of the 
other; of cities that were set on fire and their restoration, and various 
events of war. 

Return of earl It was at this time that Randolph earl of Moray, leaving 

R^d^^ into David Bruce still sheltering in France, came to Scotland and 

had a joyful reception from the lord Stuart in Dunbarton ; by 

his aid Clydesdale, Carrick, Kyle, and Cunningham were gained 

Bot chyldyr that na kyndly skyll 
Had to deme betwyx gud and iwyll, 
Na cowth nocht drade thare will to say, 
For thare Kyng wes a child as thai. 
Qwhen men askyt qwhays men thai were, 
Thai rycht apertly wald awnsuere, 
That thai war men to Kyng Dawy : 
Thus said thai all generaly. ' 
^ The multure dues of the baron*s mill — * one of the most grievous oppressions 
of the peasantry '. Cf. Mr. Innes*s Lectures on Scotch Legal Antiquities, p. 47. 


over to their side, and Robert Stuart and the said earl of 
Moray were chosen to be guardians of Scotland. This done, 
the earl of Moray marched against the earl of Athole, pursued 
him even to Lochaber, and compelled him to swear fealty to 
David Bruce. They then called together a council of their 
followers at Perth. Those who were present at this council A Council of 
were: Andrew of Moray just ransomed from his captivity,* *"° ^* 
Patrick Dunbar earl of March, Lord Stuart, Alexander Mow- 
bray, David earl of Athole, William Douglas of Nithsdale. 
But now they learned that Edward of England and Edward 
Baliol had arrived in Scotland ; and therefore gave their orders 
that the common people should leave defenceless places and 
betake themselves to strengths. It was in this year that the 
duke of Geller^, moved as much by English money as by The duke of 
English prayers, went forth to fight against the Scots, and ^^^' 
with a large fleet invaded their country. The guardian, the 
earl of March, William Douglas, and Alexander Ramsay met 
him in battle at the Borough moor. The fight was a fierce 
one, but the G^Uer men were defeated. On the payment The Geller 
of ransom, however, the Geller men were allowed to pass 3^^^^^ 
freely into England. Only the duke of Geller, in case he 
should be slain by the Scots under way, was from motives of 
humanity attended by the guardian in person ; and the English, 
when they came to hear of this, gathered some troops together 
all secretly, fell upon the guardian unawares, and took him 
prisoner. For though the men of northern nations may indeed The Guardian 
excel the southrons in strength and valour, yet in that prudence Socen. " 
which is a first necessity in warfare they are too often found 

After the guardian had been taken prisoner, David earl of David earl of 
Athole turned him to Edward of England and Edward Baliol ^ Ae""^^ 
at Pertli, and there gave them his word that, if they would ^">fr 
make choice of him for guardian of Scotland, he would in no 
long time crush the Bruces, bring them over to the party of 

1 Macpherson, in his notes to Wyntoun's Cronykil (vol. iii. p. 297, Laing*sed.), 
says that the Scottish historians have erroneously called * the politic ally of 
Edward ' (whom Major calls * dux Gelriae*) * Earl of Geller instead of Namur, 
probably led into the mistake by an Earl of Gueldre (written Geders) being at 
the same time in the service of England '. 

- Cf. ante, Bk. I. ch. vi. p. 29, ch. vii. p. 44. 


Edward, and so keep them settled in that mind ; and they for 
their part assented to what he said, and departed yet once more 
into England. This David was a fickle man and an ambitious; 
though he had succeeded in bringing every Scot to Edward'^s 
side, there is no doubt that he would have ended by turning 
against Edward and making a forcible invasion of his kingdom. 
His cruelty to He was the oppresssor of the innocent and of the poor among 
* the common people ; for all he did he knew no measure but his 
own will, heedless of the dictates of reason ; and against guilt- 
less men he raged with inhuman cruelty. He then began to 
lay siege to the castle of Kildrummy ; whereupon Andrew of 
Moray (who, after the capture of his kinsman the earl of Moray, 
had been chosen for guardian by the followers of the Bruces) 
went forth against him, taking with him two noblemen — strong 
men they were and devoted to Bruce — to wit, the earl of March 
Andrew earl and William Doufi^las. There was then fou&^ht a fierce battle 
madeGiL^ian. i^ the forest of Kilblene, in the which the earl of Athole, 
Walter Gumming, Robert Bred, and many others came by their 
A fierce battle, end. And in the following year the guardian laid siege to the 
castle of Lochindorb ^ which was held by the wife of that earl of 
Athole who had just been slain. And she went secretly to the 
English king for succour. A short while thereafter the king 
of England came into Moray with a large army, and laid all 
The English waste with fire. Elgin, the chief city of Moray, he gave to the 
The bnrn^^of Aames ; its church, the seat of the bishop and the dwellings of 
®P"- the canons, he saved from being burnt. Thereafter he went to 

Aberdeen, and razed that city to the ground. Thence he 
went to Perth, where he commanded that the walls of the city 
should be built of fair and noble stones at the expense of six 
religious foundations, to wit, of St. Andrews, Dunfermline, 
Lindores, Balmerino, Arbroath, and Cupar ; and some strong 
places likewise he ordered to be restored, to wit, St. Andrews, 
Lochris*, Stirling, Maidens'* Castle^, and Roxburgh, in the 
which he placed his own keepers and lieutenants. It was at 
this time that his brother John arrived, and he wasted with fire 
those parts of Scotland which were hostile to Edward, and 

^ Orig. and F. Lochindork. 

* So F. , ? Leuchars. Wyntoun has * the Pele of Lukrys *. Orig. * Lochrien * = 
Lochryan. ' See ante, p. 15. 


those of the inhabitants who took refuge in sacred buildings 

he burned. And when Edward rebuked him therefor before John of ElUuua 

the high altar of Saint John at Perth, and John answered him ^e alur« ^^ 

in stubborn fashion, he was then and therefore put to death by 

king Edward. Consider, then, how Grod punished the wicked 

conduct of John toward sacred places by his death at the hand 

of a brother ! For it sometimes happens that Grod uses a man, 

against his will, as an instrument for the avenging of foul 

insults offered by another; just so did he raise up the Syrians 

and Assyrians against the Hebrews when they sinned, and these 

his unwitting instruments inflicted a punishment of which they 

knew not the measure. 

After this, leaving Edward Baliol at Perth, Edward the The English 
Third went into England ; and Henry de Beaumont, for the ho^e^*^"™* 
avenging of his son-in-law, the earl of Athole, put to the sword 
without mercy all upon whom he could lay hands. In the 
same year, in the month of October, Andrew of Moray, who was 
called guardian of the Bruces, took by storm the castles of Andrew of 
Dunnottar, Kynnef, and Lauriston, which were in the hands of J^*^J^^J|^'' 
the Baliols, and razed them to the ground. During the whole 
of that winter the war went on unceasingly between him upon 
the one part and the English with the Baliols on the other, 
so that the whole lands of Meams, Gowry, and Angus were 
stripped bare of all provision. In this year, too, this same 
Andrew, with the help of James Douglas, razed to the ground 
Falkland, St. Andrews, Lochris^, and Bothwell. The castle of